Baker retires from dentistry practice after 50 years

Published 6:37 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dr. Curtis Baker confers with dental hygienist Dianne Benton over a chart on his last day at Baker Family Dentistry on Wednesday.

Dr. Curtis Baker confers with dental hygienist Dianne Benton over a chart on his last day at Baker Family Dentistry on Wednesday.

After 50 years of practicing dentistry in his hometown, Dr. Curtis W. Baker donned his white coat to treat patients for the last time Wednesday at Baker Family Dentistry in Clanton.

Baker, 75, expressed mixed feelings about his decision to hang up his dental coat after five decades and embrace a new chapter of his life.

“I’ve met so many wonderful people and made so many friends, and giving it up is so bittersweet,” Baker said. “If I had it to do over, I’d be a dentist again.”

Baker graduated from the University of Alabama School of Dentistry in 1963 after having obtained his undergraduate degree from Birmingham-Southern College, where he majored in biology with a double minor in chemistry and physics.

He worked with Dr. J.E. Edgar at his practice for several months before buying Dr. William Parker’s practice in 1963.

About 40 years ago, Baker moved his practice from an office downtown to its current office on Baker Avenue in Clanton.

Baker’s daughter, Dr. Bethany Lyn, is an optometrist whose office is located next door.

His son, Dr. Chris Baker, joined his practice in 1990 and will continue to operate Baker Family Dentistry.

“I’ve just been fortunate to have the opportunity to practice with him,” Chris Baker said. “My main reason for being a dentist was to work with him.”

Curtis Baker said he had hopes of becoming a dentist early in his life.

Edgar, his family’s dentist when he was growing up, encouraged Baker to go to dental school.

Baker said he enjoys the mental challenge of dentistry, as well as meeting people and forming friendships.

“I love my patients,” he said.

But other community members might recognize Baker for his roles in establishing a YMCA in Chilton County in the 1980s and opening Shoney’s Inn and restaurant off Interstate 65 Exit 208 in Clanton in the ’50s.

Baker remembers having conversations with Don Sumrall, Curtis Smith and Dan Nolen about opening a Y in the county to give children a wholesome place to spend their time in constructive and healthy ways, such as team sports including soccer and basketball.

“I wanted to give those kids something with Christian influence in it,” Baker said. “The Y was the most outstanding thing I ever got involved in.”

Baker and his wife Beverly live on a farm a few miles outside of the city, where they raise horses and care for a stray donkey named “Jack” and a zebra named “Zeebie” they acquired years ago.

The zebra, donkey and a quarter horse named “Bob” hang out in the same pasture every day and by all accounts are inseparable.

“Where you see one, you see all three of them,” Baker said, laughing.

As a retiree, Baker said he is looking forward to cranking up his bass boat and fishing more often.

He will also be able to exercise his pilot’s license and spend more time in the skies flying airplanes.

“I’ve enjoyed flying over the years and I’ve enjoyed fishing, but more than anything else, I’ve enjoyed being a dentist,” Baker said. “It’s been a wonderful life.”