Tom Parry

Story of My Life

I arrived in Decatur in January, 1960, because my Dad had been transferred there to manage the brand new, downtown OSCO Drug store.  Even though I entered MacArthur in the middle of our sophomore year, I remember finding it easy to meet and make friends.  I learned a lot while there from teachers like Mr. Caudle, Mr. Green, Mr. Londrigan, Mr. Rudolph, and Mr. Smith.  I especially enjoyed my time in Miss Burlison’s A Choir and Choraliers.  Plus, participating in various assemblies at MacArthur introduced me to public speaking. Unfortunately, central Illinois was not a good place to live for someone with asthma.  Our senior year, I missed so much school it’s amazing I even graduated, and the asthma got dramatically worse during the summer of 1962. At that time the understanding of and treatment of asthma was very limited. Finally, in July, our family physician told me I simply had to leave central Illinois.  I’d already been accepted at the University of Illinois, but that was obviously not medically advisable.  When my aunt and uncle in Mesa, Arizona learned about our physician’s advice, they suggested I apply to Arizona State University in Tempe.  Amazingly, ASU accepted me even though I submitted my application just a few weeks before school started in August.  So, from Decatur I was off to Tempe. With the help of my advisor, in two years at ASU, I was able to complete all the requirements for admission to the University of Illinois dental school.  So, from Tempe, I was off to Chicago.  During the four years I was there, I not only completed a BS degree, and earned a DDS degree but I also, almost completed a Master’s Degree in Physiology.  Because of my marginal typing skills on what would now be called an old-fashioned typewriter, I was late turning in my Master’s thesis; so I did not officially receive the Master’s Degree until the next year.   While in dental school, I applied to and was accepted into the periodontal residency program at Temple University beginning in the fall of 1968. But then, in my senior year, I was shocked and dismayed to receive a Selective Service draft notice in the mail.  Fortunately, when the Army found out about the residency, they agreed to postpone active duty until I completed my specialty training. So, from Chicago, I was off to Philadelphia.  The educational atmosphere at Temple was both welcoming and enlightening.  Plus, it was there I met Doris, the love of my life and my wife now for 50 years.  The U.S. Army took us to Ft. Hood, Texas and then to White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.  Those years practicing periodontics in the Army were like a fellowship during which I continued to perfect my surgical skills.  So, being drafted proved to be a blessing-in-disguise. As far as children are concerned, Doris has a daughter (Marie Elena) and we have a son (Cameron).  I like to say they both help other people feel better.  She’s a psychiatrist in New Jersey and he’s a wine maker in Napa, California.  They each have two daughters whom we love dearly.  But, we don’t see them as often as we’d like, since we live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and have done so for 48 years.  New Mexico is a truly enchanting place with three distinct cultures (Anglo, Native American and Hispanic) blended together in a geography that varies from desert sand dunes to snowcapped mountain tops. I practiced as a Periodontist for 30 years, during most of that time it was difficult to take off much more than a long weekend because I could not justify doing surgery on a patient one day and then leaving on vacation the next day.  After those 30 hectic but psychologically and professionally rewarding years, I retired in March, 2000.  The intervening years have found us traveling all over the world, and making up for all the vacations we didn’t take while I was practicing. For 30 years I also taught part-time in the Dental Hygiene School at the University of New Mexico.  It was fun watching the students learn to understand the anatomy, physiology and pathology of the mouth, while they worked to perfect their clinical skills.  In retrospect, I think I would have enjoyed being on a dental school faculty in a post-graduate Periodontology Department where I could have practiced part-time, taught part-time and done research into periodontal diseases and treatment. But, that’s probably just an old man dreaming, because I’m way too independent to have ever survived the politics and the bureaucracy full-time faculty must endure. Well, that’s my story. I still fondly remember my time at MacArthur.  And, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who made me feel welcome there.   Tom Parry

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