The following article was originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of IMPACT Newsmagazine, (released June 1, 2020) Dental Depot's internal quarterly magazine.
A Pearl of Wisdom
Honoring the Legacy of Dental Depot's Mom
Everybody knows Dr. Glenn Ashmore, founder and owner of Dental Depot, as a hard-working dentist with an award-winning personality and a good head for business. And while all of this is true, it offers a narrow view. We are shaped by the people and places we share our lives with and for Dr. Glenn, this couldn’t be more true. But for many members of the Dental Depot family, especially those of us who joined the team after expansion began in the early 2000s, there’s someone who played an integral part of our history you might not know about. We’d like to introduce you to Lola Pearl Ashmore, Dr. Glenn’s mother.
Pearl, as she was known, was born on May 14th, 1916 in Mangum, Oklahoma. She grew up in a time with even more uncertainty than we’re experiencing now – The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, World War II – but she didn’t let any of it deter her. She graduated high school in 1934 and worked at the local hotel for a time before she moved to Oklahoma City, where she attended business college. In 1942 she began her 36-year career with Southwestern Bell Telephone Companies. Then, in 1950 she married Eldon Glenn Ashmore and they started a family, albeit a little later in life.
“All of our family worked at the phone company at the time. Dr. Winn’s grandfather and my father were brothers, and they came to Oklahoma City [from Farlin, Iowa] during the Depression in the early 30s,” Dr. Glenn said. “They found jobs with Western Electric for $5.00 a day and at the time, that was good pay for good work.”
Dr. Glenn recalled having a “classic, normal household in the 50s and 60s,” spent on the same streets he returned to when he began Dental Depot. Eldon passed away in November 1968 and Dr. Glenn graduated from Northwest Classen High School in May 1969. He spent the next six years in Dallas for dentistry and then two years in the US Navy. He returned home for good in the summer of 1977 ready to open his own practice.
Pearl had always been close with her son, and found that the dental practice would present a unique opportunity to work together and help him succeed. So, she retired from the phone company and embarked on her second career, spending the next 25 years at Dr. Glenn’s side. It wasn’t unusual for Pearl to be in the office seven days a week, keeping the books and collecting payments from patients, no if’s, and’s or but’s about it.
“She was always very nice to me. I think she was a go-getter, always fired up. She really wanted to make sure that patients paid their bill and she was really good about that,” Dr. Cheng said. “I remember she’d get Dr. Glenn’s lunch ready and could always stop him to eat. My wife really liked her and she was just always right there. If I ever had a question, she’d say, “Well, I don’t know. But I will find out and get back to you with an answer.”
Pam Foster, who had grown up across the street from the Ashmore family (and still works here today, some 40 years later), has similar memories of Pearl. Pam came on as a dental assistant and the trio rented an office at NW 17th St. and Shartel Ave. It had just enough room for two operatories and gave them time to renovate the duplex that would become the original Central OKC location.
“[Pearl] was a kind, sweet lady but she could be feisty,” Pam recalled. “She always thought that I worked Dr. Glenn too hard. She would say, ‘I don’t care what he says, you work him too hard.’”
All that hard work paid off, though. Thanks in part to Pearl’s networking abilities from her time at the phone company and an ad for after hours dental emergency services in the Yellow Pages, the patient base steadily increased. But while the practice was growing, Pearl started to gain a reputation all her own.
“We never had a down year, despite all of the ups and downs of the economy in the oil businesses in Oklahoma and the busts,” recalled Dr. Glenn. “She was a bulldog about collecting her little boy’s money. If somebody didn’t pay, she just couldn’t understand it. She was relentless about [collections] and people missing appointments and she could track them down. Some of the people were very understanding and appreciative of that. But for the most part, I think some people would come in and pay just for the fact that there should have been no way for her to find them.”
Another story Dr. Glenn is fond of, speaks to just how tenacious she was.
“Dr. Winn and I were sitting in the office working when mom had noticed tenants next door weren’t bagging their trash. She goes, ‘Glenn, you’ve got to go over there and tell those people to bag their trash!’ and I’m just nodding and working away when she says, ‘And I’ll go with you!’” Dr. Glenn recalled. “So I stopped and go, ‘Alright, let me picture this – We’re gonna go over there, knock on their door, go in and tell those guys they’ve got to bag their trash or else I’m gonna kick their ass. Right, mom?!’ Keep in mind, she’s about 5’2” by 90 pounds. But, that’s just who she was.”
Mona Wautelet joined Dental Depot as a dental assistant in 1999 and like everyone who met her, liked Pearl and the stories she told, especially those she had about Dr. Glenn growing up.
“One of Pearl’s favorite stories was when Dr. Glenn was about 3-years-old.She was cleaning the house and was taking the drawers out of a Tallboy [dresser] and looked over, and he was sitting in one of the drawers, and she said, ‘Glenn Allan, what are you doing over there?’ and he says, ‘You’re the worker, I’m the player.’ She said she couldn’t even be mad at him!” said Mona.
In addition to being what many describe as cantankerous, Pearl had a stubborn streak, especially when it came to technology. She struggled to adapt, something Dr. Glenn found out the hard way.
“One time I put a computer on her desk thinking that she could handle it and it was not pretty,” laughed Dr. Glenn. “‘Get that thing off my desk!’ And then I tried to get her to use the cell phones early on when they were still very simple. It was ridiculous how stubborn she was. It had buttons and rang like a handset and she would just sit there and look at.”
But Pearl didn’t let a lack of technology get the better of her, and she always found ways to keep everyone just as busy as she was. On slow days, Pearl would set people on the task of polishing the woodwork that lined the office or send them outside to pick snails off of the boxwood hedges – Dr. Glenn included.
But as Pearl got older, she downsized from the Ashmore family home to the Epworth Villa Retirement Community, located at NW 150th St. & Penn Ave., and continued to commute daily into her 90s. Dr. Glenn remarked that ‘if you needed into the right hand lane of Hefner Parkway, you could forget about it when she was driving.’ Her health began to decline around the same time as Dental Depot was beginning to expand, and she began to spend less time at the office.
“Arlene and I were going somewhere with mom in the backseat and I was asking some pertinent questions and Arlene told me I was being too nosy. Mom piped in to say, ‘He’s not nosy, he’s concerned.’ That’s what I say now when I’m talking to people or asking them in-depth personal questions: I’m not nosy, I’m concerned,” said Dr. Glenn.
“There was such a special bond between those two and she raised him to be his own boss. If you could imagine having somebody be your biggest cheerleader and one of the best influences in your life, that was Pearl,” recalled Mona. “She was somebody who would back you beyond words. The sun would rise and set on Miss Pearl. And in turn, when Pearl was sick and had to have emergency surgery, he’d go to work in the day and stay overnight every night with her while she was in the hospital. He doted on his mother. It’s one of the best relationships between a parent and a child I’ve ever seen.”
Pearl passed away on March 3, 2013, at the age of 96. And while she’s gone, the impression she left on those she shared her life with remains. As much as she loved to work and stay busy, family always came first. She hardly missed any of Dr. Glenn’s sporting events growing up and got to spend plenty of time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As for Dr. Glenn, there’s no denying the influence Pearl had on him, and in turn, on Dental Depot.
“Those Depression Era people are just a little tougher than the rest of us,” said Dr. Glenn. “She’s the reason I am the way I am. Fortunately or not.”
While many of us never had the opportunity to meet Pearl, her story brings some comfort and light at a time when we all need it the most. That’s why we’re dedicating this issue to her memory, and to the lessons she left behind: work hard, play when you can, and always put family first.