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After 43 years, a heartfelt goodbye

Yardley, Pa.—After 43 years of service to essentially the same dental practice, 89-year-old Rosalyn Kleiman is finally retiring this month.

IMAGE: Dr. Paul Rosen and his longtime receptionist Rosalyn Kleiman
Goodbye: Dr. Paul Rosen (left) will say farewell this month to his longtime receptionist Rosalyn Kleiman, who is retiring at age 89 after 43 years working in dentistry.

Ms. Kleiman is a receptionist in the practice of Dr. Paul Rosen, a periodontist based in Yardley, Pa. She moved along with Dr. Rosen after he started an offshoot of a previous practice, 13 years ago. They had worked in the prior practice together for a decade, ultimately working together for 23 years. Before Dr. Rosen came along, Ms. Kleiman worked in the previous practice for two decades.

To Ms. Kleiman, her career in a dental office seemed unlikely. She previously worked in retail as an assistant buyer at Gimbels department store. Then Betty Corn, a friend and the wife of a dentist, asked her to consider working in her husband Herman’s dental practice. At first, Ms. Kleiman scoffed at the notion.

“She said, ‘We need someone in the front office,’ and I replied, ‘Oh, I don’t know about that,’” Ms. Kleiman said.

When Ms. Kleiman went to check out the practice, she felt more certain she wasn’t a good fit. But the doctors and Mrs. Corn encouraged her to come aboard. “They said, ‘No, no, no, you can do this!’ ”

What made her friend so certain that Ms. Kleiman was right for the job? “I had been president of the Sisterhood Organization at our congregation, and we knew each other very well, and she knew that I liked people,” Ms. Kleiman said.  She has been a fixture of the practices ever since.

Describing her as a “bulwark” during the practice transition, Dr. Rosen said, “She was really someone whom the patients could identify with and continue to see. When I continued on my own, Roz, along with the rest of the staff, was always about promoting the practice, getting people to come in. Roz always approached the practice as if it was her own. That’s the type of pride and work ethic that she always displayed.”

Her way with people is a main reason that Ms. Kleiman has been so valuable to Dr. Rosen in the many years they’ve worked together. “All the patients really look forward to seeing her when they come in,” Dr. Rosen said.  “She understands people and that’s really what it’s all about, serving the patients and helping the practice.”

Dr. Rosen said that Ms. Kleiman is the epitome of consistency and reliability.

“She has a work ethic that’s really unparalleled in today’s society,” Dr. Rosen said. “Roz has always demonstrated a certain care about the practice that’s something unique and not necessarily seen in general. She’s been terrifically loyal, someone who is really synonymous with the practice’s identity.”

Patients notice when Ms. Kleiman, affectionately known to them as Roz, isn’t there. According to Dr. Rosen: “In fact, when they come in, they say, ‘Is Roz not here or what?’. We reply, ‘No, no, today’s her day off.’ They’re always coming in expecting to see Roz.”

There are some patients who’ve been around as long as—or nearly as long as—Ms. Kleiman, who said, “I now see some of their children and, in one or two cases, their children’s children.”

Dr. Rosen is planning to bid adieu to Ms. Kleiman during a retirement dinner Dec. 29. Meanwhile, Ms. Kleiman has been helping to prepare the office for a different kind of transition: one where she will be leaving the team. Dr. Rosen said that she definitely will be missed.

“You learn in life that you have to go on,” he said. “That certain void? Others will take Roz’s position, but it won’t ever be quite the same.”