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Langley fixture Dr. Ploof eyes 40-year career’s sunset
Frank Ploof is ready to fill one last cavity, clean another molar and tell a final patient to “Say ahhhh” as a four-decade dentist in Langley.
After 41 years serving Langley and South Whidbey residents’ dental needs, the good doctor of dental surgery will retire this week. Ploof, 71, will work his last day Jan. 31, just before Groundhog’s Day on Feb. 2, so he can avoid any chance of being told he has to clean teeth and scrape plaque another two weeks or two years.
“It’s just time,” Ploof said in his home on the ground floor of his Second Street dental office.
He had a confession about dentistry, too: it can be just as miserable for the dentist as it can be for the patient.
“I’ll never have to take another wisdom tooth out,” he laughed. “It’s a tough situation for everyone involved.”
His only employee said she was sad and happy to see her boss retire. Jodi Grimm, who has worked for Ploof the past 18 years, called him laid back and patient, and said his connection with people was one of his greatest assets as a dentist.
“He cares about his patients,” she said, sharing tales of Ploof visiting with patients in the waiting area over a cup of coffee, or playing chess with them, or playing one his guitars.
Bob Herzberg, Langley’s former police chief and a 30-year patient, was one of Ploof’s final dental visits Monday. He praised Ploof for being knowledgeable and helping his family, like the time Ploof recommended they wait six months before undertaking the expense of getting braces for his son. It saved Herzberg a lot of money, he said.
“I like the idea of him having more fun,” Herzberg said of Ploof as he sat up from the surgery chair to show off his “RETIRED Stay back 500 feet” T-shirt. “He’s going to be missed. We don’t have these kinds of doctors anymore.”
Ploof, who has decorated his office with personal belongings from artists and vacations, is a dentist of a bygone era and a bit of a historian. All of the art, nearly a dozen paintings, were collected via trade for his dental services. None are so cherished to him as an oil painting of an enlarged black-and-white photograph that shows his dad standing next to Hall of Fame baseball player Ty Cobb. There are also the two paintings in one surgery room of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and of the South Seattle landmark Hat ‘n’ Boots, which was the first gas station Ploof filled up his tank at when he got his driver’s license. In the front office, woven baskets collected from vacations to Arizona and British Columbia adorn the room. He quipped that they are probably “worth something.”
“But my mom always said it’s not worth anything until you sell it,” Ploof said.
On an average day, Ploof sees about 12 patients. Over a 41-year career, that accounts for thousands of different mouths. And, even though Ploof can recall idioms his mother recited or how he and his wife Janet met — she interviewed him for his first dental job out of the Army — he’s not sure who his first patient in Langley was, or who will be the last.
“I resisted looking ahead,” he said.
Come Monday, Feb. 3, Ploof anticipated still participating in the revelry of a Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl victory. Down the road, he planned to drive down the coast along Highway 1 and Highway 101 to California, a road trip he said he last took nearly 50 years ago.
Friends and patients can find him in the same place, however, as he plans to renovate the former four-surgery room office into a livable apartment for his wife and him.
He came to Langley and opened his practice in 1973. Over the past four decades, he said the most striking difference with the town is its skyline, noting the construction of the Langley Village and Porter Building across from his office and home.
“It’s a pretty wonderful place to work,” Ploof said. “This place had a lot of charm to it and still does.”
A party for Ploof
Celebrate the career and retirement of Langley dentist Frank Ploof, who first opened his dental practice in the Village by the Sea in 1973, at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26 at his office at 221 Anthes Ave., Langley.