It was my pleasure to interview Lillian Petersen for this column. Lillian is one of the pioneers of the denturist profession in Oregon and one of a very few women to choose this profession.
She started out working as a receptionist for a dentist, Dr. Weber. When Dr. Weber’s lab technician left, Dr. Weber taught her how to do repairs and she started to do needed repairs at the front desk between answering calls and scheduling appointments. She found working in the lab business much more fascinating than answering phones and became a lab technician and later became a Certified Dental Technician (CDT). She soon opened her own lab and began working for all the dentists in the Florence area. In 1980, she sold her lab to Dave Smith, whose son, Grant, is now a denturist in the Eugene area.
The State of Oregon legalized Denturism in 1979 and Lillian was one of the first thirty people to apply for and receive a license. The State then split the applicants in half and tested those fifteen. They then selected about 7 of those to become proctors for the next group of applicants.
Lillian opened her denturist practice in 1980 in Florence and practiced there until 1990 when she sold it to Shawn Murray, who had just graduated from the Oregon Denturist College. She then went to work for Dr. Simpson, a dentist in Waldport, OR and stayed with him for ten years. She then opened a practice in the “old hospital” building in Florence. She finished her career working for a Florence denturist, William Foster.
During her career, she served as President of the National Denturist Association (NDA) as well as Secretary of the Oregon State Denturist Association (OSDA). Lillian was a faithful attendee at most conferences the OSDA and the National Denturist Association held.
Retirement has seen her continue as a real estate entrepreneur with an interest in rentals. It also allows her to spend more time with her daughter who is a nurse at the local Florence hospital.
What she liked most about being a denturist was seeing her work in a patient’s mouth and knowing she had made a big change in their life. The advice she would give to people in the profession: “Just listen to your patient.”
Congratulations to Lillian Petersen on a long career and a well-deserved retirement.