Loving Linda: Celebrating a Life and a Legacy

 

Linda and her mother enjoy a day on Tybee Beach, near Savannah, Georgia

This past August we had the pleasure of honoring a woman you may know from our Central OKC office. After 31 years as a dental hygienist with Dental Depot, Linda Bryant retired. According to Linda, we weren’t celebrating that she was leaving, but celebrating that she stayed. Part of that celebration is continuing here as we tell her story and share the legacy she left for us.

Keep reading to the bottom for Linda’s famous pimento cheese recipe!

From a young age, Linda Bryant knew that she would become a dental hygienist. After all, her mother was a hygienist with Georgia’s Public Health Service, and Linda, driven by a desire to help people, had always been fascinated with her mother’s hygiene books.

 

Linda’s graduation photo from dental assisting school, 1967.

 

Still, it would be years before she realized her dream. In the meantime, Linda helped people by volunteering in other ways, like the time when, at 13 years old, she helped the American Red Cross prepare bandages in caseof disaster during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“I didn’t go into hygiene school right away because we couldn’t afford it,” Linda said. “So I went to dental assisting school in Atlanta. I got certified and I went to work for a dentist who was doing four-handed dentistry.”

It was at this bustling private practice in South Carolina that Linda got a taste for the challenge of managing multiple operatories and a full schedule.

After that first year on the job, Linda met Cal, a young serviceman in the U.S. Air Force, who later, after a tour in Vietnam, become her husband.

 

 

 

Linda and Cal on a trip to his hometown of Tulsa, 1967.

Married life on a military base gave Linda the perfect opportunity to help others while raising her young family. Once again, she volunteered with the Red Cross, this time providing services for people on base. The couple spent the first few years of their marriage moving from base to base, from Virginia to Texas, and even to Portugal. Everywhere they went, Linda found ways to make a difference.

“I started a lot of EMT courses [on base], as well as a legal office and a library,” Linda recalled. “We’d start some pretty innovative programs and curriculum for them and stayed really busy.”

While Linda was volunteering full time, she was also raising her two children and going to school. She completed her prerequisites with the University of Maryland and attended hygiene school at the Health Science Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Then, when her family moved to Oklahoma, first Altus and then to Oklahoma City, she decided it was time to begin her career as a dental hygienist.

Pearl, Pam, Jan and Linda pose with the rest of the original crew at our Central OKC office.

Joining Dental Depot

Linda and Suzi Burba, another longtime team member, pose for a picture, circa 2002.

“I went to go interview with Dr. Glenn [Ashmore] at lunchtime and he reminded me of the dentist I’d left in South Carolina,” Linda said. “He had a lot of rooms going at once and I noticed that his lunch was on his desk.

“In the middle of the interview, I asked, ‘Have you eaten lunch yet?’ And he told me, ‘No, but don’t worry about it.’ I told him he could eat in front of me, but he was just so matter-of-fact. I felt at ease with him.”

As soon as she had seen that untouched lunch, Linda knew she was in the right place. She made fast friends with Pam Foster and Jan Montgomery, as well as Dr. Glenn’s mother and original office manager, Pearl.

“We used to answer the phones, ‘Doctors Ashmore and Ashmore,’ and Pearl and I looked at each other when they talked about changing the name to Dental Depot, and we said, ‘That’ll never fly!’” Linda recalled with a laugh.

Dental Depot was the first paying job Linda had had in some time and, so used to volunteering, the idea of collecting a paycheck didn’t occur to her. At the time, clocking in and out was done on a slip of paper and handed in at the end of two weeks in exchange for a paycheck. Linda said it took three pay periods and reminders from Pam to help her get in the habit.

Linda acted as our first Smiley O’Riley, teaching children about dental hygiene in the classroom.

Dr. Glenn, however, still liked to remind Linda to turn in her hours. The problem was, she already had. Instead of telling him she’d done it, she started doodling on her slip of paper before handing it in, so he couldn’t miss it.

“It got more and more elaborate and I started sketching, and for years I did that,” Linda said. “And I thought, maybe now he knows that I’m turning my hours in. One day I just handed him my paper with only my name on it and he asks, ‘Where’s my drawing?’ So I kept drawing, every two weeks until we got computers.”

 

Up From the Ashes

When the original Dental Depot burned down in 2001, Linda and the rest of the team moved to the new South OKC office to practice while the Central OKC office was being rebuilt.

Today, the hallways of the Central OKC office boast photos of the original building. The fire acted as a catalyst for a new beginning, and the reconstruction of the building with its iconic new design. Linda was the person behind the camera for most of these photos.

When the team moved to work out of the South OKC office while it was under construction and the altered commute had Linda passing by the charred remains of the original office. She had just completed a scrapbook for her granddaughter and had an idea.

 

“I just started taking pictures,” Linda said. “I would stop by the office and every day something new was going on. It was sad when I saw them bulldozing it.”

Creating the scrapbook was a monumental undertaking. Almost every day for ten months, Linda stopped to take new photos and spent her evenings working on the book. Linda presented the finished book to Dr. Glenn at that year’s Christmas Party with more than 60 pages of memories.

Today, that scrapbook lives at the Central OKC office. The red cover has faded and the spine is well-worn, but the memories inside tell an important part of our history. And just like the phoenix Linda hand-crafted to adorn the book, Dental Depot rose from the ashes.

 

A Fond Farewell

When Linda lost her hearing in 2006, she that worried she might not be able to continue in a clinical setting. As a lip reader, knowing what dentists or other clinical staff were saying behind their masks became difficult, if not impossible. Her team rallied to help and made it possible for her to stay another 12 years!

“[Dr. Glenn] was very thoughtful. He wanted to know what he could do to help,” Linda said. “He was willing to accommodate me. They made me belong, whether I wanted to or not!

“I was slow and then I became deaf,” Linda said. “The people I was working with, they have no clue how helpful they were to me. That whole group over there are just quality people.

“I thought my farewell would be a low-key potluck, but what a celebration it was! My son and husband were invited, unbeknownst to me. There was a gigantic, delicious cake for after work and friends from past and present gathered. We’re not celebrating that I’m leaving, but celebrating that I stayed.

“Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying, ‘Almost all men can endure adversity: but a man’s true character comes out when he has power.’

“And, character is what I could count on with my coworkers. They were there for me through thick and thin. I appreciate that times when I was not much good to you. You helped me carry the load. I appreciate Dr. Glenn’s support of me when I was ill or injured. It’s been a treasure of memories and I thank you all.”

When we asked Linda what legacy she was leaving behind, her answer was humble and sincere: she made sure people knew she cared about them. She showed compassion and kindness to her team and to her patients. Today, that compassion is a core value companywide. Because at the end of the day, kindness is all that matters.

From all of us at Dental Depot, we want to thank Linda for her 31 years of service and to wish her a very happy and fulfilling retirement.


Linda Bryant’s Pimento Cheese

Makes 5 Pints
Ingredients:
  • 3 lbs Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 lb Colby Jack Cheese
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar Velveeta
  • 5, 4 oz jars of diced pimento peppers (with juice)
  • 1 tennis ball sized onion, ground finely in a chopper
  • 2 Tbsp chopped garlic (jarred under olive oil)
  • 5-6 heaping Tbsp Hellmann’s mayonnaise*

*Wait to incorporate the mayonnaise until all the ingredients are processed.

Process:
  1. Cut up the cheeses to fit into the mouth of your food processor.
  2. Process the cheeses on grate or finer, your choice.
  3. Process in the pimento, onion and garlic to the cheese mixture.
  4. After the processed mixture is finished, put it in a large mixing bowl and add the mayonnaise.
Linda’s Tips:

Alternate adding the pimentos, onions and garlic with the cheeses. I process half of the recipe at a time and dump it into a huge mixing bowl. That way, between processing, I can wash off the blades to keep the globs off.

Wash the pimento jars out and reuse them to gift individual pimento cheese servings. You can also buy small plastic containers at the dollar store to gift these servings.