MEEKER | It’s been 47 years since Dr. Charles Vandiver hung out his shingle and opened Meeker’s first preventive dentistry. Since that time he has repaired countless teeth, raised a family, made lifelong friends and made Meeker home. After a lengthy career—the average American changes careers every five to seven years—Vandiver will retire at the end of June.
A native of New Mexico, Vandiver attended college in Texas, where he met and married his wife Dee Anna. He graduated from Baylor University’s dental college in 1970, the same year the couple had their first child, a son named Vince. One night in January, Dee Anna said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a small town in Colorado?”
They’d never heard of Meeker, but six months later Vandiver purchased Wilton Cogswell’s dental practice and the little family packed up and moved.
“Our friends and family thought we had lost our minds because we had things set up so well in Dallas,” Vandiver said via email, adding, “A few people in Meeker thought I had lost my mind as well, because I brought modern, sit-down preventive dentistry for the first time to Meeker.”
Vandiver renovated the office—one of Dr. Cogswell’s original dentist chairs still graces the lobby—and bought modern equipment to start his practice in Meeker.
Two daughters were added to the family. Vonda Kay now lives in Anchorage, Alaska, with her husband Mark and their children, Kate, Max and Sam. Julie Anna lives in Worland, Wyo., with her husband Aaron and their children Annalise, Maci Lynn, Creedon and Bronson. Vince, the oldest, lives in Rawlins, Wyo., with his wife Kelli and their children Chase, Kenady and James.
“Not having any idea what we were getting into or what to expect when we moved to Meeker, we could not have possibly chosen a better place to raise our family and experience the amazing people that live here.”
A lot has changed in dentistry during the last 47 years, but through continuing education seminars and keeping up with technological advances and techniques, Vandiver has kept his practice on the cutting edge of modern dentistry.
“I am very proud to say my office has maintained and kept up with modern dentistry. Dramatic changes have been made in every specialty since the mid-’70s,” Vandiver said. “Our computerized injections, light-cured material, intra-oral camera and digital equipment have greatly reduced patient anxiety.”
His staff, most of whom have been with him more than 20 years themselves, get a little emotional at the mention of “Dr. V’s” retirement. Dental hygienist Judy Franz has been with him for 27 years, Jill Dunbar for 23, Darshan Merrell for 22 and Kim Kummer for three.
“I have been privileged to work with Dr. Vandiver for 27 years. I know that he genuinely cares for each of his patients and has been an example of hard work, dedication, kindness and generosity. He has been my mentor and my friend and I will miss him,” said Franz.
“It’s been a pleasure working side by side with Charles these past 23 years,” Dunbar said. “He has been both a wonderful friend and a mentor. I know this next chapter in his life will be the best ever!”
Merrell expressed her appreciation to Dr. Vandiver by saying, “It has been a great 20 of your 47 years. Thank you for your teachings, mentorship, and service to all of us. I wish you and your family all the best in your retirement.”
Kummer, the newest staff member, said, “I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work for Dr. Vandiver these past three years. Dr. Vandiver is an amazing dentist and person. I love how he cares about his patients and his staff. I’m so grateful for his kindness to those around the community. He will be greatly missed… Happy retirement!”
The appreciation is mutual. “These ladies are amazing and I have often said I will put my staff up against anybody. They are what makes our office efficient and a fun place to go, even though it is a dental office,” Vandiver said, adding that his staff is what he will miss most after his retirement.
He won’t, however, miss being on a schedule, which has ordered his life since 1966. He and Dee Anna plan to spend more time visiting their grandchildren, traveling, camping, “and of course, hunting and fishing.”
Dr. Trevor Grant will take over the practice in early July. Grant’s wife Marki is a Meeker native, the daughter of Mark and Julie Cook, and the couple has one son, Korban.
“Trevor and Marki will bring the next generation of technology and dentistry to Meeker,” Vandiver said. “One of the great aspects of my retirement is getting an amazing family to continue the practice.” Incidentally, Grant is the same age Vandiver was when he and Dee Anna came to Meeker.
“My 47 years in Meeker was made possible by the amazing people of Meeker and surrounding area, my amazing staff, and most of all my wonderful family. Thank you all!”
There will be a retirement party for Vandiver this Sunday at the Town Park Pavilion from 4-6 p.m.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ll introduce Meeker’s newest dentist, Dr. Trevor Grant, and family in next week’s edition of the Herald Times.