Lawrence resident Paul Kincaid says the embarrassment of defeat led him to choose dentistry as a career more than 60 years ago.
Kincaid, 90, said his high school in Braymer, Mo., didn't have an organized track team. Nonetheless, one Saturday a school bus drove around town and picked up students who wanted to compete in the county track meet. He got on the bus.
"When I got there, I decided to do hurdles," he said. "I thought it looked easy."
Kincaid fell over the first hurdle and landed on the cinder track. The embarrassed teenager got up and tried to "get lost" in the crowd.
Instead, he ran into an old friend and they started talking about what they wanted to do after they graduated. His friend said he wanted to be a dentist, work for 25 years and then retire.
"I thought that sounded good," he said.
After graduation, Kincaid attended three years at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., and then entered the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, graduating in June 1945.
His friend, however, didn't go to dental school.
"He became a school superintendent," he said.
Kincaid's dental office has operated continuously for 66 years, and according to the Kansas Dental Board, he is the longest active practicing dentist in Kansas.
He continues to work half-days Monday through Thursday. Each evening, he calls patients who have undergone procedures that day to ask how they are doing.
When Kincaid was a dental student, he worked in the laboratory at the school. A Lawrence dentist who used the laboratory told Kincaid he could make enough money to pay his rent by working two hours a day as a contract dentist for Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence.
At the time, Kincaid was making $225 per month working at the lab.
Kincaid, who had a wife and young son by this time, said he visited the dean and told him he had a chance to be a contract dentist in Lawrence. The dean noted he would earn more money if he set up his own dental practice.
So, Kincaid went into debt $3,000 to purchase furniture and used equipment and set up a dental office over Bunny Black's shoe store at 8391/2 Massachusetts St. The office had two operating rooms and no air conditioning.
In 1953-54, during the Korean War, Kincaid served in the U.S. Army and was stationed at an army disciplinary barracks in New Cumberland, Pa. A dental school classmate came to Lawrence and ran his office during his absence.
When he returned to Lawrence, Kincaid moved from Massachusetts Street to a bungalow office at 306 E. 23rd St., near Haskell Indian Nations University. In 1956, dentist Phil Falkenstein joined his practice. They worked alongside each other for about 30 years.
Kincaid said he was thrilled when his youngest son, Charley Kincaid, joined the practice 35 years ago. His other son, Paul Kincaid Jr., is a chiropractor in Oskaloosa.
Today, Kincaid Dental Clinic has about 15 employees, including five hygienists and three dentists. Dental assistant Cheryl Cooper has been with the practice for 45 years, while hygienist Jane Getto has worked there for 35 years.
In 1983, Kincaid and his son Charley received a letter from his pastor saying he thought it would be a good thing if they joined a mission to Haiti sponsored by the East Kansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. It would be the first of three trips the dentists would make to the poverty-stricken country.
"We mainly did extractions," he said. "We pulled 800 teeth in five days."
In addition to the Kincaids, the team included a pediatrician who tended to children with diseases, a veterinarian who talked to residents about how to take care of their animals and an agronomist who talked to farmers about crops.
Kincaid's efforts in Haiti earned him the Paul Harris Award from the Lawrence Rotary Club.
Kincaid, a prostate cancer survivor who enjoys woodworking, said his wife, Mary Bess, died earlier this year. Being able to work with staff and visit with longtime patients at the dental office has helped filled the void of that loss.
"We're friends," he said of his staff and patients. "We're almost relatives now."
Kincaid said he has no desire to retire.
"I've retired already — for one day," he joked. "I came back the next day."