Online survey; farewell to a friend

This year we have combined our practice, fee, and salary surveys.

This year we have combined our practice, fee, and salary surveys. At your convenience, you can participate in the survey online.

When I was a freshman in dental school, I joined the United States Navy as an ensign. Upon graduation, I was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to duty with the Fleet Marine Force at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina. I reported for duty and met five other dentists who had the same orders. Over the next two years, we became a very tight group. So it was natural that we kept in touch when we scattered back to our hometowns.

Of that original group of six, five of us decided to vacation together on the Florida panhandle. We had all married about the same time and our children were about the same ages. The men drank a lot of beer and told a lot of stories, while the women watched the kids swim all day. Since many of the stories had to do with our dental practices, we decided to form the Jacksonville Dental Study Club. We all shared a lot of great practical ideas over a beer on the beach.

Last week, we said a final farewell to one of our members, Dr. James A. Smith from Normal, Ill. Jim was born and raised in Normal, and he practiced as an orthodontist in neighboring Bloomington for more than 30 years. Jim was a special guy who had the knack of being everybody's friend. He always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He was a great storyteller; his stories revolved around some wild and crazy thing that had happened to him - usually with a funny twist that he would swear was true. Jim and his wife, Marion, met in kindergarten. She was his high school sweetheart, and they eventually married and raised a son and two daughters.

Jim loved adventure and was always trying something new. He was a fixed-wing pilot who would load all of the family into the plane for trips. He was a hot air balloon pilot who raced balloons internationally. He was an avid hunter and fisherman. He raised horses.

He and Marion had a wanderlust; they traveled all over the world with family and friends. They would always share their experiences in such a way that you could enjoy the trip as well.

He was president of the international Jim Smith Club and was very proud that he was the only "Normal" Jim Smith. Space does not permit a complete coverage of all that Jim did. The important thing is that Jim lived life to the fullest with an ease and grace that is seldom seen today! He lived in and enjoyed the moment and tried to help you do the same.

Last July, as Jim was walking through an airport, he dropped the bag he was carrying. He noticed that he had lost the strength in his hand. A brain tumor was quickly diagnosed, and Jim began a fight for his life. He lost that fight on Wednesday, June 26, but not before he showed us a deep faith and commitment to God during his illness.

Jim had one last adventure. On Sunday, June 23rd, he had an out-of-body experience. He appeared to be dead, but then he returned and spent the next few hours telling Marion all about where he had been with a strength and enthusiasm that she had not seen in days. He had seen his parents and Jesus, and he was able to tell her how wonderful it was and that he was no longer afraid. What a beautiful gift!

Jim was a special friend, and I will miss him! His life should remind us that we can be all that we can be; we simply need to do it. I know that many times I can let a deadline get me down. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with everything I have to do. During these times I can be very hard on the people around me, especially my wife. Jim's life is a reminder to me that I shouldn't take myself so seriously. Life will go on if it doesn't get done today. Stop and smell the flowers. Have some fun! Laugh a lot! Do some wild and crazy things in your life!

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