Linda Vaught’s has been behind the desk at the dental office beside the railroad tracks in Rural Retreat for more than four decades. Vaught hasn’t pulled teeth, filled cavities or read X-rays, but she has kept the office organized and running smoothly. She retires at the end of July.
“We can’t do anything without Linda,” said dentist Michael Spraker, who took over Doug Humphrey’s dental practice when Humphrey retired in 2001. It was Humphrey who hired Vaught just after she graduated from Wytheville Community College in May 1975.
“It was just the two of us. She did everything I didn’t do,” Humphrey said. “She probably did more than I did.”
Back then, dentists practiced two-handed dentistry, meaning Humphrey did most of the dental work himself with assistance from Vaught. These days, dentists like Spraker practice four-handed dentistry, meaning that dental assistants work as extra hands for the dentist, helping to reduce the amount of time patients spend in the dental chair.
Over the years, Vaught has learned how to deal with the confusing world of insurance companies; when she started at the practice, very few people had dental insurance.
When Spraker took over the office, Vaught became his office manager.
“Everything went to computers from paper,” she said.
“It was a big change, but she picked it right up,” Spraker said, adding that his practice would not be as successful as it is without Linda.
A native of Rural Retreat, Vaught knows everyone in town and her approval and recommendation meant everything to him, he said.
“She spoke very highly of me, even though she didn’t know me yet,” Spraker said, adding that endorsement was like gold to him. “Her good word made my practice grow exponentially.”
“He was worried he wouldn’t have enough patients,” Vaught said. “I guaranteed him he would have no problem.”
Vaught said she would miss working with Spraker and visiting with patients in the office.
“I have met a lot of people over the 44 years,” she said. “And I feel like that is what I will miss, not seeing those people. I’ll miss Dr. Spraker and the staff. I’ve only had two bosses and they have both been wonderful. They have been kind and generous; I have been blessed with them.”
Spraker and Humphrey feel the same way about Vaught.
Spraker said Vaught has strong people skills, especially when dealing with people who might be irritable because of pain from a toothache or other dental emergency.
“She’s dealt with all types of people, both good and difficult,” he said. “She’s always kept calm and been respectful. I’ve never seen her lose her cool.”
“You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like Linda Vaught,” Humphrey added.
“She will be highly missed,” he said.
Vaught’s last day in the office was July 31. After she retires, she plans to work on some home projects, travel a bit and volunteer with groups like the Depot Foundation, the Rural Retreat Lions Club and Grace Lutheran Church. She also plans to spend more time with family: husband Curtis, sons Chad and Cameron Vaught, and granddaughters Cana and Chloe.
Spraker is hosting a retirement reception for Vaught at the Rural Retreat Depot on Aug. 10 at 3 p.m. The reception is open to the public.
To reach Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.