Death of longtime Oak Lawn dentist John Green ‘huge loss’ for family, community, dentistry
By DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org October 12, 2012 1:00PM
Updated: November 15, 2012 6:10AM
When Kevin Clifford went to the dentist, it was like visiting an old friend.
That’s because his dentist, John Green, had a unique gift for making patients feel welcome and comfortable.
“He’d tell me about his family and he’d ask about mine,” said Clifford, of Tinley Park. “He was a nice man, very pleasant, with a nice sense of humor.”
Though Clifford was speaking from personal experience about his memories of Green, who died Sept. 29, his description of the esteemed doctor forms a recurring theme among the hundreds of mourners who came to the services and who signed the online guest book. Green practiced for 58 years, first in the Beverly community, then in Oak Lawn.
His passing at age 86 has meant “a huge loss for our family, our community and for dentistry,” said his son, John Green Jr.
“He was a truly compassionate man,” Green Jr. said. “We miss him dearly.”
Green grew up in Little Flower Parish on Chicago’s South Side. He attended Quigley Seminary High School in Chicago, intending to become a priest. But while he was at St. Mary of the Lake College in Mundelein, his path diverged.
“He met my mother and realized his calling was to get married, have kids and become a dentist,” Green Jr. said.
So Green continued on to the Chicago College of Dental Surgery, which later became the Loyola University Dental School.
He maintained close friendships with several men he met at the seminary, including two who would go to become bishops. Bishop John Gorman and Bishop Raymond Goedert both spoke at Green’s funeral service Oct. 4.
Green graduated in 1954 and immediately joined the dental corps of the U.S. Air Force.
A year later, he married Ave Maria Hayes at St. Sabina Church on Chicago’s South Side. The newlyweds moved to Texas until Green received his discharge from the military. Then they returned to Chicago, where Green opened his first practice at 109th and Western in Beverly.
Back then, Green Jr. recalled, dentistry was an emerging profession.
“It was mostly silver fillings and extractions,” he said. Drills were driven by belts, root canals were rare and cosmetic dentistry had yet to blossom as an industry, he said.
Always, a trademark of Green’s care was his ability to put his patients at ease.
“My dad specialized in compassionate skillful care,” Green Jr. said.
The Greens had five children, three of whom followed in their father’s professional footsteps.
After his oldest son, Chris, graduated from dental school, Green moved his practice to Oak Lawn. Within three years, sons Chris, John Jr. and Gavin were all working beside their father from that office. Another son, Hugh, became an attorney and now lives in Washington D.C. Their daughter, Ave, is a stay-at-home mom living in St. Paul, Minn.
Lawrence Lenz went into dentistry because of Green.
“He was a good friend, always there for you,” said Lenz, who has orthodontic and prosthodontic offices in Orland Park and Naperville. “In grade school and in high school, I always looked up to him.”
Later, after he became a colleague, Lenz said he would see Green at professional meetings.
“I’d always say, ‘Hey, Dr. Green, I’m here because of you,’” Lenz said. “He was very special and his kids are, too,”
Green was a longtime member of St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Oak Lawn, where he served as an usher and a lector. He and Ave helped plan the annual talent show.
The Rev. Patrick Henry, pastor of St. Catherine, said, “John was a man of great faith, love and dedication to his family. He was very active in the parish, working as a lector and eucharistic minister. He was also the caregiver for his wife for many years. They were always together, it was very touching.
He added, “And I understand he was a great dentist, too.”
In his free time, Green liked to play golf, particularly at Water’s Edge golf course in Worth and George Dunne in Oak Forest.
Mostly, Green Jr. said, “My dad loved being with his grandchildren.”
He attended as many of their plays, concerts and sporting events that he could, Green Jr. said.
“He was the unofficial family photographer. We used to complain, ‘Dad, that’s enough pictures,’” Green Jr. said. “But now we cherish them all. We have drawers full.”