Steilacoom’s Dr. Thomas McAvoy retires from dentistry

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Dr. McAvoy and his family.

For over 30 years, Steilacoom has been the home of Dr.Thomas McAvoy, his family and his family dental practice. McAvoy has made the short trip from his home to his dental office, located at 1710 Lafayette Street, a few thousand times since he opened his practice.  That commute ended June 29 with his retirement.

“The decision to retire and leave my practice has been a difficult one with many mixed emotions,” McAvoy wrote in a letter to his patients dated June 26.

One of the positive aspects of retirement will be the chance to do more of the other things he enjoys.

“Teri and I want to do some traveling,” he said.

McAvoy and wife Teri Rideout already have plans in place for a river cruise in France. There are also golf greens in McAvoy’s future.

“I love to play golf,” he said.

McAvoy, a Wolverine football fan, is originally from Michigan. Prior to opening his dental practice in Steilacoom, McAvoy was a dentist in the Air Force. He was stationed at McChord Air Force Base for three years, and liked this area so much he decided to settle here.

Many things about his practice were distinctive. The office itself isn’t typical as it’s in a home built in 1910, with a front examination room that overlooks the spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.  Seasonal decorations brightened the interior, and there were some creative entries on the office lawn in Steilacoom Garden Club’s annual scarecrow contests.

As McAvoy looked back on his long dental career in Steilacoom, he commented, “The highlight was the patients.”  Some of McAvoy’s patients have been coming to him for dental care since the early 1980s, and there are second generation patients as well. Many members of McAvoy’s staff have been in his life almost as long. Vicky Selden has been employed there since 1985, and Kathleen Hystad has been one of his employees since 1989. Becky Wiggins began working in McAvoy’s office in 1991. A few other employees have worked there for over a decade.

Most of the staff remain at the office working with Dr. Michael McDade, who has taken over McAvoy’s practice. McDade had a private dental practice in Enumclaw for over 20 years, and most recently took over his father’s practice in Kenmore, Washington.  McAvoy said of McDade and wife Lisa, “They discovered Steilacoom and they are really looking forward to being involved in the community. They fell in love with Steilacoom. They’ll be a great addition to the community.”

Many believe that the same can be said of the McAvoys. Although McAvoy is no longer a worker, he’s still volunteering.

“I’m chairman of a committee of dentists that are raising funds for a community health center on the Hilltop,” he shared. “The ground has already been broken on it. It’s going to be quite a facility.”

The center will include doctors’ and dentists’ offices as well as a pharmacy.

“It will help take a load off emergency rooms in the hospitals,” he commented.

During the years that he practiced dentistry in Steilacoom, McAvoy quietly donated his time and money. Some of the groups that benefited from his donations include the Steilacoom Historic Museum Association, the Steilacoom Chamber of Commerce, Saltar’s Point Elementary PTA, and MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers). McAvoy and some of his staff traveled to Honduras a couple of years ago on a volunteer trip to provide dental care.

In 2008, McAvoy was named Citizen of the Year by the Steilacoom Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Ron Lucas stated in his column in the “Around Town” newsletter at the time the award was announced, “The Steilacoom Chamber of Commerce selected Dr. McAvoy for his involved service with the business community and for his long-standing support of Town projects and schools.” Lucas also lauded McAvoy for his “exceptional support of the community”.

McAvoy reflected in his retirement letter to his patients, “It has been my great honor to care for you and your families and the community. The practice of dentistry has been one of the great joys of my life.”

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