Dr. C. Ted Roush (1937-2017)
Dr. C. Ted Roush (1937-2017)
“When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” 

– From the 1928 song written by Larry Shay, Mark Fisher and Joe Goodwin

Ladies and gentlemen, more than two centuries ago, a wise man once said that the real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress and grows brave by reflection.

In regard to smiling, it certainly helps if you keep your smile – your teeth – in good shape. Yes, one needs to brush and floss faithfully, but if you really want to keep those choppers healthy, clean and pearly white, you also need to see a dentist on a religious basis.

To that end, in all my years, I’ve only seen one dentist – my uncle, Dr. C. Ted Roush – and I’ve never had a cavity.

Now, Uncle Ted wasn’t the first Roush dentist. My great-great-great-uncle who I’ve written about more than twice, Dr. Sigel Roush (1862-1954), was a dentist (and a doctor, author, world traveler and educator), and my great-uncle, Dr. Sigel G. Roush (1915-2004), was also a dentist.

One of my earliest memories as a child is brushing my teeth with my Dad standing behind me singing, “Brush your teeth the way they grow, that’s what Uncle Ted said!”

Later, when I began losing my baby teeth, I had a loose tooth and wouldn’t let my folks touch it with a 10-foot pole. At a family gathering at my grandparents’ home on West Pleasant Street in Hillsboro, they apparently told Uncle Ted about this and I remember him telling me, “Come see your Uncle Ted, Stephen.”

When I walked over to him, he picked me up, asked me to open my mouth, and seconds later, told my parents, “He gone!” (meaning the loose tooth).

I don’t think I appreciated that at the time, but I forgave him when I got my first visit from the tooth fairy that night.

As the seasons passed and the years rolled, one constant in life was sitting in my Uncle Ted’s chair at his Lynchburg dental office twice a year. With Ted, you never just got a checkup or a cleaning. You got smiles and stories, too. Usually lots of ’em.

When I’d walk through the door at his office on South Main Street in Lynchburg, he’d greet me with a friendly smile, “Well, hello, Stephen, I’ll be right with you!” followed shortly by, “Come right on back, and we’ll take care of you.”

Dr. C. Ted Roush was an old-school dentist, and the reason for that is probably that he was a dentist in Lynchburg for 53 years. Just think about that for a moment – 53 years in one small-town dental practice.

Another reason he was old school is that after he graduated from the College of Dentistry at Ohio State in 1962, he was immediately inducted into the Army Dental Corps and served at Fort Polk, La. from 1962-64, where he attained the rank of captain. During the time he was there, he cleaned a lot of teeth and yanked a bunch of teeth.

Like I said, I’ve never been to another dentist, but people tell me about going to other dentists. I guess these days, there are dental hygienists who clean the teeth, the dentist who does fillings and so forth, and if a wisdom tooth needs to go, folks are referred on to an oral surgeon.

My Uncle Ted was all of these rolled into one. And he didn’t cut the teeth out – he yanked ’em out.

I’ve told stories about Uncle Ted pulling my wisdom teeth (he’s yanked three) and I usually get horrified looks and told how barbaric it sounds.

“He didn’t put you under?” “He didn’t give you laughing gas?” “And you went right back to work?” I’ve seen several people who have gotten their wisdom teeth cut out and they looked awful and apparently felt awful afterward for days.

With Ted, there was no consultation, just an X-ray, a shot, a story or two and “He gone!” (meaning the tooth). He’d slap on some gauze, tell me not to drink from a straw for a couple of days, and back to work I’d go.

Even after the numbing shot wore off, I probably felt a lot better than some who went under the knife, and my wallet most likely felt a lot better, too. You see, if I were a betting man, I’d wager that I paid less for the extraction than folks pay for the consultation that comes before the oral surgery.

Uncle Ted’s daughter, Marian Lewis, recently said that people ask her all the time why her father charged so little compared to other dentists. She said that “Dad always said that he didn’t want anyone to say that they couldn’t get dental care because they couldn’t afford it.”

Marian said that “He just wanted to help people,” and that he “was a man of integrity. He was more kind, compassionate, and serving than any man I have ever known. His life and career in dentistry was based on helping people.”

Uncle Ted would often go to his office in the dead of night, or on a weekend, to help someone in need. When he had some health issues in recent years, his first thought was that he had to hurry up and get better so he could get back to work and help others.

He certainly had a heart of gold.

When I went to see him this past June 19, he was in the office by himself. Uncle Ted's son-in-law, Don (Marian’s husband), had often served as his office manager as of late, and Ted told me since I was his last appointment of the day, he had sent Don home because “Steve and I can handle this by ourselves.”

And we did.

For years, I’ve always gotten the last appointment of the day so Ted and I could talk for as long as we wanted. Sometimes our appointments lasted three hours or more.

His stories were worth the price of admission. He’d talk about history, about family, about old cars, about old trains, old buildings. You never knew what he was going to talk about. I’ll miss those stories tremendously.

Around these parts, my Uncle Ted was known as a longtime dentist with a heart of gold; but to me, he was much more than that – he was a friend.

At the end of our June appointment, Uncle Ted sat down at the front desk and we scheduled our next appointment.

He pulled out an appointment card, wrote down my name and the date of Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, 2 p.m. I remember saying, “Your birthday is in December, what will you be this year, 79?”

“Eighty, eighty,” he corrected me. “On Dec. 9, I’ll be 80 years old.”

I took the appointment card, we chatted for a few more minutes, and as I left, he extended his arm and shook my hand.

I never realized as I walked out the door on that warm, sunny day in June that I wouldn’t be walking back through that door to see him on Dec. 18 – or ever again for that matter.

Instead of celebrating Dr. C. Ted Roush’s 80th birthday on Dec. 9, there will be a celebration of his life at 2 p.m. that day at Hillsboro Christian Academy in Hillsboro, as Uncle Ted passed away Nov. 8, 2017 at his home.

I was fortunate to see Uncle Ted the day he passed from this earth. The last thing I told him was, “We love you and will miss you, Uncle Ted.”

I’m not sure if he heard me that day, but I’m sure he knows.

Thanks for everything, Uncle Ted. You were kindhearted, a man of faith and you made a difference in the lives of so many people. I look forward to the glorious day when I can see your warm smile and hear your stories once again.

Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at roush_steve@msn.com.

(Note: for more on Dr. Roush, go to http://www.highlandcountypress.com/Content/Obituaries/Obituaries/Article/Dr-C-Ted-Roush/17/66/41447.)