Evansville dentist still fixing teeth at 93
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Evansville dentist Wilbur K. Manchette has been practicing medicine so long that his career itself is old enough to retire, but he’s not stepping down any time soon.
Manchette, 93, works three days a week at All In The Family Dental on Lincoln Avenue -- a practice he founded -- and doesn’t see a reason to quit yet after 65 years in practice.
“After all this time, it’s no longer having to get up, it’s getting to get up to come to work,” he said.
Many of Manchette’s returning patients are people he’s treated for decades, and some won’t see anyone else while he’s still practicing. Phyllis Seals, 81, said she’s relied on him for more than 50 years. He’s treated families through three or four generations.
It’s caused a few coworkers to wonder if he is the oldest currently practicing dentist in the world. His dental assistant (and daughter-in-law) Beth Manchette and a few others at All In The Family have reached out to the Guinness Book of World Records to find out, and are waiting on the results.
“As long as I feel up to it and all, Beth and I work as much as we want to,” W.K. Manchette said. “Time has flown, and here we are, and I guess we’re about to set records.”
W.K. Manchette said he was inspired to become a dentist while growing up in Poseyville during the Great Depression, on a day when he rode his bicycle six miles to sell hens to pay for a tooth extraction. As he was riding home, he realized dentistry was his dream job.
“I had aspirations to quit following the mules,” he said.
Manchette served in World War II and originally trained as an engineer, but later moved to a pre-dental program. When he was discharged from the military in 1946, the G.I. Bill paid for four years of dental school. Manchette closed his senior year at St. Louis University School of Dentistry as a commissioned second lieutenant. He served for two years in the Korean War, and eventually returned to southern Indiana to start work as a dentist in 1952.
Since then, he’s moved to several different locations in Evansville, relocating from downtown offices to a space at Deaconess Hospital and eventually to All in the Family Dental’s current location on Lincoln Avenue, just off U.S. 41.
Seals, who has been visiting Manchette’s practice since he worked downtown, praised the dentist’s calm hands and mild manner. During her first appointment, she said, she told him she was nervous to meet a new dentist and he told her to take whatever time she needed.
“I’ve found him to be very kind, very considerate,” Seals said.
Beth Manchette has worked with her father-in-law since 1978. They stick around because they love the work and people, said Beth Manchette. She and Manchette perform less surgery than they used to but will still put together crowns and fillings and clean teeth.
“It’s all about the people,” she said.
He agreed, adding: “It’s all about the relationships.”
Manchette could decide to retire for good tomorrow, he said -- there’s not a set schedule. He and Beth are slowly transferring his patients to other dentists at the practice, Beth Manchette said, but a lot of them refuse to see anyone else as long as he’s still in the office.
“They tell Dr. Manchette all the time, ‘don’t you go anywhere,’” she said.
He calls his current schedule “semi-retirement.”
“It’s just a fun thing, three days a week,” he said.
When patients ask if he’s going to retire for good, Manchette has an answer ready for them.
“My hands don’t shake, my vision’s good - I don’t even wear glasses to read,” he said. “As long as those faculties are okay, well, I’m going to continue to show up.”
Source: Evansville Courier Press, http://bit.ly/2rAfJbW
Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com