Dr. Bob Henry and his wife Edith Henry are in their last month of full time dental practice in Forks this month.
“After 34 years of dentistry in my home town of Forks, Edith and I are planning to retire by the end of March 2012,” Henry said in a letter he sent to his patients and associates.
“I thank you for choosing and placing your trust in me as your dentist. Many of you have been with me from the start and I sincerely hope that I have provided service deserving of your loyalty.
Henry is selling his practice, including his dental office building on G Street to Dr. Kyle Fukano.
“I am also happy to inform you that my assistant of 33 years, Diane O’Hara, will continue in the practice,” he added.
Bob and Edith plan to retire in Forks “This is our town,” said the Forks High School graduate who grew up in the town when it was truly the “Logging Capital of the World.”
As a send-off to retirement the Henrys are planning to travel half-way around the world to East Africa for a photo safari. Joining the Henrys will be close friends John Calhoun and his wife Judith. Coincidentally, John recently retired from his post as head of the University of Washington’s Olympic Natural Resources Center in Forks.
Dr. Henry Graduated from Forks High School in 1960. His tie to the high school’s annual scholarship auction is notable for he is the first recipient. While attending Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, heading towards graduation in 1964, his father Frank Henry, owner and operator of Frank R. Henry Logging and orginally from the Olympia-Tumwater region, passed away.
“That made it tough getting through school,” he recalls. He needed funds to pay for tuition and a committee headed up by the late Russ Thomas came up with a scholarship check for $350 for him. The support for the worthy student was the seed for the Quillayute Valley Scholarship Auction, which since the early 1960s has provided over $1 million in support for graduates going to college, heading to vocational school or in need of tools to take up logging or another trade.
Dr. Henry has been a supporter of the scholarship auction over the years, “buying things and donating things.”
His mother, Trudy Henry (really Gertrude, Dr. Henry noted) was a school teacher who became a housewife once married, a common practice in the past. “Russ Thomas encouraged her to go back to teaching, so after 33 years as a housewife she went back to school and earned the needed credentials. She taught fourth grade for about 10 years. She was From Payette, Idaho.”
After graduating from Seattle Pacific in 1964 with a degree in economic and business, right at the uptick in America’s involvement in Vietnam, Dr. Henry joined the U.S. Navy as an aviation officer candidate, training to be a jet pilot. Due to a physical quirk he ended up at sea rather than in the air for the navy, serving on a guided missile-armed destroyer. He then decided to train as an UDT diver, a branch of the navy better known today as the Navy SEALS. He spent six months training in Coronado near San Diego, in a winter class that took to the 53-degree Pacific Ocean in fatigues without wet suits underneath. “I watched guys starting to hallucinate,” he recalls some of the soakings; the attrition rate was about 60 percent. Our class was exceptional, we didn’t let them quit.”
In 1967 Dr. Henry was assigned to a tour of duty in Vietnam, where he led his own platoon, seeing action in Vietnamese rivers and beaches.
After the navy duty, he returned home to Forks and took a job as a logger. However, life had a bigger adventure for him than being in the West End woods.
He joined an archaeological dig in Turkey run by the University of Pennsylvania, with ties to the National Geographic Society, diving on a Fourth Century A.D. Roman wreck lying in 130 feet of water.
He remembers decompressing after a long dive holding a vase or plate in your hand, realizing he was the first person to touch the object in 1600 years. “It was like looking at the stars at night,” Dr. Henry said of the amazing experience.
In 1970 Dr. Henry returned to Washington state and began the path that led to his dentistry career.
He started out working as a medical technician at two institutions in the Seattle area, which interested him in doing something in medicine, though he’d been out of college by that time for nine years.
He had medical school at UW in mind, but found the University of Washington Dental School was where he belonged. The dental school liked “recyclers” (those out of school doing other things for awhile) as they seemed to be focused and made good dentists.
In the end, he decided to apply to the dental school, and did well. Fate played a hand when a fellow officer in the navy UDT program ran into him at the dental school. “He’d never mentioned an interest in dental school, he was a student representative on the selection committee. He called up ahead and said ‘you’re in’.”
Dr. Henry started dental school in 1973 at the University of Washington Dental School, which was located right across the street from Husky Stadium. This required four years of training, graduating in 1977.
Half-way through dental school Dr. Henry married his wife Edith. Edith moved to Seattle in 1968 from her hometown, Swan River in Manitoba, Canada, after trained to be a registered nurse in Winnipeg.
The couple met in an unusual setting under pressure, with Dr. Henry attracted to the Canadian nurse by her nice laugh.
“I worked as research tech for the University of Washington anesthesiology department, and the Virginia Mason Research center, doing research in a hyperbaric tank, the type of tank used to treat divers struck down with the bends. The research involved using 100-percent oxygen and 60-feet of pressure in the tank to speed up healing of serious wounds including gangrene and carbon monoxide-poisoned patients.
“I met Edith when she was a nurse at Virginia Mason, and I was an ex-diver and technician. They recruited some nurses and I was training them. Edith was one of the RN’s down at 100 feet of pressure in the chamber. They were experiencing nitrogen narcosis as part of the training. They started to giggle then laughter erupted; I always said she had the nicest laugh.”
His path back to Forks came following graduation from dental school in 1977. The Henrys were living in Kirkland in 1977. He began his career as a dentist working as an associate a day or two a week in dental offices in Anacortes and Lynnwood.
Eventually, he talked to Dr. Bob Baker, then Forks’ dentist, who had been seeing patients in what is now the old Sol Duc Clinic. Dr. Henry saw patients there for 10 years prior to rebuilding an old house on G Street he acquired in 1987, moving in for good in 1988.
In addition to his Forks practice, Dr. Henry traveled frequently to Seattle to attend meetings of the Hampson-Ferrier Gold Foil Study Club at the University of Washington Dental School.
“I met with dentists from the area. This was a good way to keep yourself sharp.” The club focused on restorative dentistry, and at meetings he picked up tips on dental practice, “both technique wise and informational wise.”
The couple have two children, Monica, who was born in March, 1979, and now works in social services with the Quileute Tribe, and Trevor, who was born in March 1981 and now works in film production in the Washington D.C. area. Both children attended the public schools in Forks.