Meet Dr. Spiller (and Family)
These were taken in the vicinity of 1950. I still remember my cowboy suit. Westerns were popular in the days of the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, and Tom Mix. I also have fond memories of Bonnie. In those days, no one penned up their dogs, and Bonnie had a bad habit. She used to sit in the road daring cars to hit her.
I grew up in Swampscott, MA, graduated from high school in 1965 and attended Northeastern University where I majored in electrical engineering for two years. I was a co-op student which meant that I would alternate going to college for three months and then work in a business related to my major for the next three months. I had no problems with the engineering, but those were the mid 60’s, and when I began to grow a beard, my supervisor became alarmed and told me that if I didn’t shave it off he’d have to fire me. That was when it first dawned on me that I was not cut out for the corporate world. In quitting that job, I also had to quit school (those were the rules at Northeastern at that time) and immediately I became eligible for the draft.
The Army was after me, but since I had not yet been called up, I decided to do a bit of traveling first and set out hitch hiking around the USA, registering for the draft in each city I came to. Computers being primitive and unconnected, I was safe from Uncle Sam as long as I traveled because the Government could never come to grips with a moving target. When my number was finally up (literally) I successfully beat the draft by enlisting in the Navy. Actually, I had an ulterior motive for joining up (beyond the pressure of the draft board). Diana somehow knew that we were destined to spend our lives together, and I thought that by joining the Navy, I could avoid marriage. It didn’t work! In less than a year she had me! I’ve never regretted it.
The Navy was a turning point in my life. I was married and had one child (Jeremy, born in 1971) and the Navy let me keep my beard. I was a Navy corpsman (a medic) and had received additional schooling in blood bank and hospital laboratory technology. I became a bacteriologist and a part time pathologist’s assistant helping with autopsies and generally learning my way around hospitals. I could have remained in laboratory technology after the Navy, but that would have meant ultimately working for someone else which would eventually lead to grief, and undoubtedly the loss of my beard. I was, however, becoming quite adept at the technical skills involved in my job which included emergency room work, minor emergency surgery, drawing blood, starting IV’s and other patient oriented tasks. I became very good at making rational decisions under extreme duress. I had to decide how I was going to apply my skills, earn a decent living and support my family after I left the military.
My decision to go into dentistry was partly driven by the fierce competition for placement in medical school and the miserable thought of still being a student at age 35. Acceptance to dental school was almost a sure bet if I did well during my last two years of undergraduate work. And so I chose dentistry where, I have since learned, that grace under fire is a huge advantage!
To make a long story short, in 1974, my wife had blessed us with a new addition to our family, a daughter, Heather. I finished two years of undergraduate work at Boston University graduating cum laude in 1975. During those two years I supported myself and my family by working as a part time bacteriologist at a hospital in Lynn, MA. I applied for and was accepted to Tufts School of Dental Medicine in Boston and graduated in 1978. That’s Jeremy taking the diploma at the Boston University graduation. He writes embedded software For Amazon.com now.
It may surprise you to know that upon graduation from an accredited professional school, most graduates tend to feel that they are not ready to unleash themselves on an unsuspecting public. In school, the student is exposed to the rudiments of their profession. They leave academia with a fair amount of knowledge and some practice in applying it, but not much in the way of experience. The term “dental practice” means just that – Practice!!
After graduating from dental school I decided to join the Army for a general practice dental residency. (Unfortunately they DID make me cut off my beard.) I figured, “What the heck? The military did a great job of training me for the real world of lab technology, so I might as well see if they can do the same for me in dentistry”. They did NOT disappoint me. As a result of the training I received from my military residency, I became proficient in dental specialties that most general dentists refer out to specialty offices. While I still refer out some of my cases, I am fully equipped and capable of performing complex extractions, difficult endodontics, fixed and removable prosthetics, and periodontics (gum surgery) as well as minor oral surgical procedures.
During my residency I routinely assisted in orthognathic (jaw straightening) surgery, and became quite good at plastic surgery and repair of faces after severe traumatic automobile and gunshot injuries. (At Fort Bragg, where I did my residency, the dental residents were routinely assigned all emergency facial trauma cases, probably because we had already mastered the fine motor skills necessary for cosmetic repair of faces.) My fellow residents and I routinely wired fractured jaws, and sutured facial and oral lacerations during our emergency room rotations. We diagnosed and treated oral cancer cases and assisted in long, involved facial reconstructions. I am quite proud of the knowledge that I gained during my five years in the US Army. As a result of the confidence gained during that experience, I am a much more versatile and competent dentist.
I spent five years in the Army, three of them in Germany. During that time I took many of slides which I eventually digitized and printed. You can see them stapled all over the walls of our office.
I have been practicing dentistry for 28 years (as of 2006) and have owned my practice in Townsend, Massachusetts since early 1984. We have treated thousands of patients, many being seen over the course of several years for numerous visits. In spite of the very difficult nature of my chosen profession, most patients seem to be pleased with us, and by and large, we have been quite pleased with most of our patients. And best of all … I got to keep my beard!
Time passes on
Lots of people visit this page wanting to know what I look like now. My hair is a lot grayer than it used to be, but I’m not sure I feel all that different now than I did then.
Diana and Marty at Cheshire Fair (In Keene, NH not far from my home in Ashby, MA). 1984 (right)
This is me on top of Mt Washington in 2016
My daughter, Heather and her fiance John were married in March of 2005. John is an incredibly versatile person who is a top exec at a major cloud computing company in San Francisco, a great keyboard player and a devoted father and husband. He used to be the sound manager for the singing group Phish. He’s also incredibly strong. He overcame Leukemia in 2014.
Heather is a fierce mother of two active kids and manages a second home as a bed and breakfast.
This is Heather and John with Orion (sitting) and Floyd with the trophy.