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Dentist, 106, lives full life

Surfs the web; still embarks on road trips

Oro Valley, Ariz.—Nearly 400 miles of desert highway was in front of Dr. Will Miles Clark as he took the wheel.

Dr. Will Clark and his wife, Lois, pose with their three children.
World War II: Dr. Will Clark and his wife, Lois, pose with their three children.
The retired dentist took a road trip with his son last month to attend the grand opening of the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge in Boulder City, Nev. You might think a story that begins with a father-son road trip is nothing special. Lots of dads pack up their car and drive hundreds of miles with their sons.

But Dr. Clark is unique. He’s 106 years old. And still driving. And isn’t even required to wear any contacts or glasses. He can see just fine, thank you very much.

In fact, as long as he’s able to, Dr. Clark can drive until he’s 111. The state of Arizona just renewed his license for another five years.

It’s a small detail that provides a peek into Dr. Clark’s 106-year-old spryness. He’s been retired from dentistry for 46 years and has been busy ever since.

Dr. Clark is a lifetime member of both the Colorado Dental Association and the American Dental Association, joining the latter in 1929—the year he entered private practice. He’s self-sufficient in an assisted living facility outside of Tucson, Ariz., taking care of his two-bedroom, two-bath apartment all by himself.

Dr. Clark uses the computer his children bought him for his 105th birthday.
Tech savvy: Dr. Clark uses the computer his children bought him for his 105th birthday.

After nearly 77 years of marriage, Dr. Clark’s wife, Lois, died last April at 103. They have three children, seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, including two dentists and one physician.

“I read a lot, and the kids bought me a computer on my 105th birthday, so that keeps me busy a lot,” said Dr. Clark, who returned home from his road trip to find 51 e-mails in his Gmail account. “I’m so darned busy.”

Dr. Clark was born on Aug. 17, 1904, in South Dakota and moved to Iowa with his family while he was still young. Being a dentist didn’t enter his mind until he happened to meet some medical students while he was a student at Creighton University and realized he lived down the street from the dental school.

“I was just looking for an education and to be able to get a job,” Dr. Clark said.

Dr. Clark laughs with his late wife, Lois, who died at 103.
Long-lived: Dr. Clark laughs with his late wife, Lois, who died at 103. The couple were married nearly 77 years. There are seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Dr. Clark graduated in 1929 and went into private practice in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 1, 1929. Less than three months later, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began.

“I had barely gotten started and then everybody was out of money, out of jobs,” Dr. Clark said.

Dr. Clark went on to meet Lois, a dental hygienist who joined his practice. According to Dr. Clark, Lois played hard to get until she found out that another hygienist was interested in him. They married in 1933, and until Lois’s death, Dr. Clark said they held hands whenever possible.

Dr. Clark served as a combat medic in the Army in World War II, and received a commendation on Iwo Jima and was awarded the Legion of Merit decoration. He served for 20 years, retiring as a colonel.

He shares the hard knock attitude many from the Great Depression still hold. He doesn’t idealize his profession and is just thankful he had a job and was able to pay the bills. Dr. Clark says he doesn’t miss being a dentist but was proud to have been one.

“It was a good profession for me. I endured the Depression and didn’t make any money or anything, but at least I could eat,” Dr. Clark said. “You could always make a living, and you immediately had a position of respect in the community. It just opened a lot of doors.”

Everybody asks Dr. Clark the most cliché question one can ask a person over 100: what’s your secret to living that long? And really, Dr. Clark says there is no instruction manual for how to live past 100.

“There’s no answer to it. It’s the luck of the draw,” Dr. Clark said. “If you’re going to live to be old, you’re going to live to be old.”