Last night came the sad news that Dr. Richard J Runde Sr., DDS, had passed away. He was 74 years old. Dr. Runde was a friend of the Wigderson family as well as the family dentist, and quite an original character.
Dr. Runde was a dentist of the old school. He had a single practice rather than worked as part of a large clinic. He was a not a believer in unnecessary Novocaine. He was really pleased when his recommendation of brushing with baking soda had a positive effect on my teeth. He was not a fan of the "cosmetic dentistry" you hear on the radio. Instead, he practiced sound family dentistry that inspired confidence in even the timid Wigderson visitors to his office.
Watching Dr. Runde work was like watching a hummingbird. He buzzed between his two chairs and his back room asking first his assistants and then the patient questions before flipping on his light right into your eyes. Oh yeah, the sunglasses.
One year when I figured my dental insurance was costing me more than my office visits, I canceled my insurance. Instead of lecturing me on the importance of dental insurance, Dr. Runde told me he thought dental insurance companies were killing his profession. He then told me that if he ever did find something that was going to cost more than the typical office visit, "We can always work it out." Fortunately I never had to take advantage.
I did take advantage of my brief visits to his office (what can I say? I had good teeth thanks to a good dentist) to talk to him about different topics and events in my life. He liked to hear what was going on in politics, and he would ask me about the Milwaukee Brewers. He discovered my wife had an interest in E-bay, and the two of them exchanged e-mail about the best ways to win auctions, usually involving Dr. Runde's interest in collecting tractors.
Aside from the usual plaques and framed certificates on the wall, Dr. Runde had two items that were interesting to look at while his fingers were in my mouth. One was a framed certificate of gratitude from a patient who (as the story was told to me) called Dr. Runde on Christmas Eve in an emergency. Dr. Runde was the only dentist he could find willing to help the poor man with an emergency fix until his regular dentist could help him.
The second was a picture of a boat pointing straight up because of a strong wave. not surprising because Dr. Runde was Commodore Runde in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and he had a few stories to tell about boats in trouble on Lake Michigan.
In 2005, Commodore Runde was awarded the Association for Rescue at Sea's (AFRAS) Silver Lifesaving Medal. From the Department of Homeland Security website:
Three U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarists, the uniformed volunteer component of the Coast Guard, later this year will receive the Association for Rescue at Sea's (AFRAS) Silver Lifesaving Medal. Richard Runde of Cedarburg, Wis., and Jay and Linda Croy of East Grand Fork, Minn., were crew members on an Auxiliary facility providing a safety patrol for the 33rd Annual Leech Lake Regatta and Sailboat Race held in August 2004. The weather took a turn for the worse, and the crew of the sailing vessel Wind Dancer became hypothermic and was unable to sail their vessel. The Auxiliarists took the 25 foot Wind Dancer in tow, under extremely dangerous conditions, where winds were 15-20 knots, with gusts to 30-35 knots and seas topping five feet. Both the crew of the Wind Dancer and the Auxiliary facility returned safely to port. Each year, AFRAS awards a Gold medal (given to Active Duty or Reserve members of the Coast Guard) and a Silver medal for Coast Guard Auxiliarists. The silver award was established in February 2000, and only one other Auxiliarist, Henry Chandler has been awarded this in 2002.
Unknown to me at the time, Dr. Runde was expected by wife to attend my surprise 40th birthday party. It would have been great to see him there, although I think he would have had a hard time believing the eight-year-old kid who needed a retainer was turning forty. Unfortunately we have learned he was probably too ill to attend, the illness finally taking him last Thursday.
The Wigderson family offers the Runde family our sincere condolences.