From growing up on a farm in Southwestern Virginia to graduating from Floyd County High School and serving in the Army Air Force, Dr. Howard Watkins was a professional. Dedicated to serving and protecting his people, Howard flew multiple missions until World War II ended, and he was rewarded with the Distinguished Flying Cross medal.
Now that he was grounded, Howard began attending Virginia Tech for two years, after which he was accepted into MCV Dental School in 1947, graduating in 1951.
A typical day began with him in suit and tie, parking across the street to allow for more space in the parking spaces in their building parking lot and changing into a crisp elbow length dental lab jacket. His jacket was the first reflection of his clean work ethics.
His dentist chair was open to young children as well as adults and one of his tricks to ease their anxiousness was ‘transforming’ the chair into a photo booth by pulling out his Polaroid, snapping a quick picture of their smiling face and giving them this memento as token of their bravery. Now, as adults many of these patients say that even to this day they have held onto these keepsakes.
By working with all ages, his knowledge of Charlottesville grew, and he enjoyed seeing the children of his patients grow up, followed then by their children. In this, he had the privilege to know them well. He listened to them. He cared about their lives. In addition, when he came home he was excited to talk about the joy of his work and his patients.
While family was an important component, he understood that other families and individuals could have had needs whose schedules may not align with the normal 8-5 office hours or even the routine weekday. Or maybe they were “shut-ins” or had an emergency. When he received a call, his answer always was, “I’ll meet you there in 15 minutes.” And for those who didn’t have anyone he made sure they had a taste of family by calling them up on Christmas just to wish them a Merry Christmas.
Dr. Howard Watkins established a legacy of smiles that inspired his son Robert to enter the field of medicine too. Howard’s presence in Charlottesville ensured his practice would live on under the care of Dr. Tom Starkey and continue to grow as Hillcrest Dental with Dr. Ryan Buckwalter.
Above all Howard proved with heart, dedication and a willingness to serve, growing up in a small town cannot stop anyone from making a big difference in many lives.