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Wilbanks retiring after 53 years

Staff Report

Dr. Daniel Wilbanks has spent 53 years in the dental profession - all in Tallassee. On Dec. 18, 2019, he will retire.

"I've been thinking about it. My kids have been talking to me about it. And, every patient that comes in says, 'You're not going to retire on me now,'" Wilbanks said. "I've finished 53 years on July 17 of this year, so I decide this would be a good year to go out.

"I'm looking forward to my retirement. I don't have any grandiose plans. I'm going to do a few things. I hope to travel a little bit. My health is good."

Wilbanks is a 53-year member of the Tallassee Lions Club as well.

"John Cottle, a great friend and partner of mine for years, invited me to come in. We were meeting down at the old Hotel Talisi, upstairs then. Grover Eubanks would play the piano. We'd sing a song or two, pledge allegiance and have a great lunch. I really enjoy the Lions Club."

He is the longest standing member and will keep going on Tuesdays regardless of retirement.

Wilbanks' return to Tallassee after graduating from THS and the University of Alabama almost did not happen.

"I almost went to Aiken, SC when I graduated from dental school," he recalled. "I had talked to a guy who had been drafted in the Army out of Aiken about buying his practice. We had settled on a price and were going to Aiken,. About two weeks after we settled on a price, he called me and wanted to go up on the price a few thousand dollars. I said, 'No. I don't thinks so.'

"My sister had the building where I am now and half of it was open. I said, "I was reared in Tallassee. It's a good place to raise a family.' So we came back here. The first six months I was here nobody came. I was going to the bank and borrowing money to make the payroll.

Millbrook was trying to get me to come over there. They offered me a house rent free and an office rent free. They didn't have a dentist. (I thought), 'Why did we come to Tallassee?' Because it's a great place to raise a family. And by golly, we'll stick it out.' It was the best decision we ever made."

Wilbanks raised five boys in Tallassee who attended school in his hometown as well.

"All of them played ball here in town. Some played baseball. Some played basketball. All five played football," like Wilbanks did himself when he was an all-star for THS in the 1950s.

Wilbanks is now 82.

"I've gone through three generations in some families. I have people tell me, 'I was one of your first patients.' I look at the chart and sure enough they were. It was 1966 when I came here. I've seen a lot of changes from a battery-operated radio that wouldn't work half the time to any kind of communication you want now in an instant. I just marvel all the time about all the changes."

Wilbanks had a knack for easing the experience for his patients, especially the youngsters who received a toy at the end of their visit from the office's treasure chest. The nitrous oxide used for procedures was commonly called "Mickey Mouse Gas."

"The kids loved it. You didn't feel any injection. It was a real boom to the practice through the years. I have adults that used it. It's helps patients to get over anxiety. And everybody has a fear in the dental office."

So what's next?

"I'm going to take my patients' advice, go to bed and get up when I get ready. I enjoy playing dominos in Montgomery usually a couple of nights a week. We talk football. We'll continue to do that. Otherwise, I don't have any plans to do anything but stay right here at home in Tallassee."