By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS
Tucumcari’s Clarence Bernard Fitzner Jr. said it has not been odd for him to get emergency calls in the middle of the night.
No, not to put out a fire or deliver a baby, but to alleviate what he deems one of the worst pains people can endure — a toothache.
He also said it’s not odd for him to rush to help.
“Yes, well I usually get up and go down, at least give them an injection so it will numb it up, so they can survive the night,” Fitzner said.
“I just enjoy helping people (with) a dental problem,” Fitzner said. “People come in with a toothache. I fix the pain. It’s kind of rewarding.”
And it’s been his reward in town for the last 32 years, where he said he’s built up a solid client base among a host of other achievements and duties.
But now Fitzner, 65, is looking to retire — sort of.
The longtime dental whiz will be moving to Amarillo where he is building his dream house — another non-oddity since this gent said he likes to work with his hands — but will be coming back to Tucumcari every Wednesday to take care of emergencies and regular patients. He said his hygienist, Karren Foisie, will work regular hours, take on new patients and Fitzner will give referrals for those who need them.
But he said he won’t be jutting out of Tucumcari and never looking back — he’s been too much a part of the town to quite forget it. Not only was he on the original board of Mesalands Community College, then known as Tucumcari Area Vocation School, but he has been a member of the Tucumcari Planning Commission, a past president of the Tucumcari Rotary Club, a member of the Elks Club and Center Street Methodist Church. He has also kept abreast of the latest changes in dentistry with continuing education classes that earned him a master’s degree in dentistry — not to mention his lifetime honorary membership in the American Dental Association.
Although he has reached the crown of success in his dental career, Fitzner said in no way did it start out that way. In fact, he first spent six years as a math teacher.
“I decided I’d really rather do something else than be a school teacher. I was looking around to see what was available. Dentistry requires using your brain a little bit and using your hands a little bit and I elected to make an attempt to get into dental school,” he said.
Fitzner said the dental quest took him from Tucumcari to California then to Texas, where he came full circle back to New Mexico and bought his current practice in 1973.
Perhaps after seeing his ambition come true after setting his mind to it, Fitzner’s wife Sharron said her husband is notorious for helping others achieve success, namely those who came to work in his office.
“He’s employed a lot of different capable young women,” Sharron Fitzner. “He’s trained them and they go on to be very successful in the community.” She said examples include Barbara Hickland who is now executive secretary in a high-powered company and Beth Sisernos, Mesalands director of the Title Five grant.
Sharron Fitzner said training includes not only administrative and work-related duties, but how to treat customers.
“He’s very civic minded; he does a lot of good in the community,” she said.