After 61 years, dentist's future is open wide

Clintonville's Dr. Joseph Massaro, 90, retired Dec. 19

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Dr. Joseph Massaro works on longtime client Eric Friend's teeth in his office last Thursday, Dec. 12. Massaro, 90, has worked out of the same office at 4345 N. High St. since 1952.
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By ThisWeek Community News  • 

After a mere six decades, Dr. Joseph Massaro has decided to retire from the practice of dentistry.

The Clintonville resident's last official day at the office is Dec. 19.

"I figured at 90 years of age, I should probably give it up," Massaro said last week. "It's good to be home and help take care of my wife and take care of the house."

Massaro, who was born in Youngstown and went to dental school at Ohio State University, has worked out of the same office at 4345 N. High St. since 1952.

He turned 90 on May 7.

"Now I'm working on 91," Massaro said.

Dr. Larry Hughes, who has been in the same dental practice with Massaro for 36 years, said he's amazed at his partner's longevity and his energy level. He said Massaro probably will continue to take a month every winter to go skiing in Colorado.

"People come in and say, 'Is he past 80 yet?' and I say, 'Oh, a couple of months,' " Hughes said. "He's really active. He still golfs. He's not skiing at Mansfield or places like that. He's out in Colorado. They have mountains out there."

Massaro arrived at his decision to become a dentist when he was a teenager.

"I'd never been to the dentist in my life; this was the Depression," he said. "I had a toothache and my mother sent me to the dentist. I was 16 years old. All summer, I visited the dentist every week. He was a marvelous dentist.

"I enjoyed going to the dentist and he was very nice about it."

That dentist's name was Dr. Gaskeen, and he not only inspired a young Joe Massaro toward a career but in his approach to patients.

"I've tried always to treat everybody nice and try to be as good to them as I could," Massaro said. "I've always gotten along pretty good with patients. They've been more friends than patients anymore, the ones I have left.

"Things have worked out pretty well. I enjoyed it. It was fun. There were a few days I didn't care about it, but most of the time it was pretty good."

Massaro came to Columbus in 1943 to attend OSU. He started dental school in 1945, part of an accelerated program aimed at rapidly turning out doctors and dentists during World War II.

"I graduated in three years because we went to school all the time, never had any time off," Massaro said.

He fulfilled his three-year obligation to serve in the U.S. Army and thought about re-enlisting.

However, having married a "local girl," Patricia Thompson, in 1949, he decided to become a civilian and return to Columbus.

Massaro met his future bride at the Olympic Swimming Pool.

"She used to have a bathing suit with a giraffe on it," he said.

In the years since he opened his own practice, Massaro said dentistry has changed greatly.

"Now it's more preventive and you go more often," he said. "You know you should be brushing your teeth and taking care of your teeth. Very seldom do we make dentures anymore. Forty years ago, 50 years ago, we used to make a lot of dentures. Sometimes I don't make one a year."

Hughes, who grew up in Clintonville and was a patient of Massaro's as a child, joined the practice right after graduating from dental school.

"He's very easy to work with," Hughes said. "When you're working with someone all the time -- I don't want to say it's a marriage, but it's similar in that you've got to get along. Basically, you're helping each other."

Dr. Albert Johnston joined the practice two years ago.

"I feel like I can leave," Massaro said.

He and his wife have one daughter and two sons, as well as six grandchildren.