Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” Confucius once said.
The quote seems to have been a perfect fit for Dr. Jerry Thoreson, who passed away on March 18 of this year.
Thoreson, a dentist, did not retire from his practice in Blue Earth until 2011, at the age of 85.
“He loved being a dentist but more than that, he loved people,” Bea Wolf, who was Thoreson’s office manager from 1977-2001, said. “Doc always made sure we had rings and toys to give out to the young kids he took care of.”
Lola Owen, who was his dental assistant from 1969-1990, recalls he loved to sing, hum or whistle while working.
“He would sing an old Fats Waller tune,” Owen chuckles. “The words were something like ‘I can’t love ya cause ya feet’s too big.’ He was fun to work with.”
Gail Classon, who worked for Thoreson from 1997 until his retirement in 2011, offered another story from the office.
“He loved to visit with the patients,” Classon remembers. “He would ask them a question and then stick his hands back in their mouth before they could answer.”
For all the fun they had, Owen says he was also good at his craft.
“He was a very good dentist and he did everything,” Owen comments. “He was very astute and a very good practitioner.”
Wolf echoed that sentiment.
“Kids would go off to college and see a dentist in the city where they were attending school,” Wolf explains. “When they would return home they would tell Dr. Thoreson that the dentist who saw them away from home had said, ‘Whoever is your dentist back home sure does excellent work.”
Dentistry was different in the early years of Thoreson’s practice, according to Owen.
“We did not use to wear masks,” Owen remarks. “And if someone came in with a cavity or other problem, he would fix it that day, which is not the case anymore.”
Thoreson also had a passion for golf.
“On Thursdays, which was men’s day at the golf course, I would quite often be the one to set up his tee times,” Owen recalls.
Thursday was his golf day until he got older when he also would go to the golf course on Monday, for Senior Day.
“He would usually work Thursday morning and go golfing in the afternoon,” Wolf says. “And yes, it seems he could remember every shot he ever hit.”
He did not just enjoy golf, he was very good at the game.
He was the Riverside Town & Country Club champion six times during the 1960s and finished runner-up several times during the 1970s and 80s, according to an article which appeared in the Faribault County Register in 2010.
And golf was not the only sport he excelled in.
“Dad was inducted into the bowling Hall of Fame in Winnebago,” his daughter, Ann Felegy, shares.
Felegy, who lives in Kasson with her husband Robert, recalls many fond family memories.
“Sunday mornings he would make pancakes,” Felegy says. “And we would listen to albums from either the St. Olaf choir, a philharmonic orchestra or any kind of swing music. And Friday nights were for dancing.”
Felegy says her father was very devoted to his family.
“My mother (Bea) and brother (Steven) both had mental health challenges,” Felegy comments. “But my father was always there for them.”
She also recalled her father loving to travel.
“We would go on a family trip every year, and we even went to Europe a couple of times,” Felegy comments. “One year he took us to Norway and we got to see where my grandfather originally lived.”
And he loved his grandchildren and great-grand children too, Felegy adds.
Thoreson, who had attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, maintained a connection with the school.
“My son Nick went to St. Olaf,” Felegy shares. “And Dad would drive up there unannounced just to go and visit him.”
Wolf also remembers Thoreson taking trips to St. Olaf.
“He looked forward to attending the St. Olaf Christmas Concert whenever he could,” Wolf says.
Thoreson combined his love of travel with his love of golf to take a special trip, recalls his daughter.
“Bob Kutsi and my father traveled to Ireland to play golf,” Felegy states. “I think those two would get into a lot of mischief together. Bob, my father, and Hal Schroeder also joined a senior golf tour. They had a lot of fun.”
Thoreson’s first office was located above the former Hanson Shoe Store, which is now the location of the Rainbow Food Cooperative.
“I remember sponge painting the ceiling in the room where my father worked. It was back in the 70s and we used some real psychedelic colors,” Felegy comments. “And more than one person has reminded me of the lava lamp in the waiting room.”
In 1983 Thoreson moved his practice from his second story location to a ground-level office at 301 N. Main St.
And if dentistry, golf, traveling and spending time with his family was not enough to keep him busy, he had other ways to occupy his time.
“He had amazing energy,” Felegy states. “Besides everything else he did, he loved to garden, can and cook.”
Though he kept busy with golf, gardening and his other passions, he was always available if needed, according to Wolf.
“He would come in to the office anytime of the day or night if someone had a problem,” Wolf says.
He was also very generous with his staff, his former employees recall.
“When we would go to the Cities for a state dental convention, he would always take us to a play at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater or take us out to a very nice place to eat,” Wolf says.
He also remembered his employees when he was off on one of his travel excursions.
“He was a very generous man,” Classon shares. “When he would visit other countries he would always bring gifts back for us.”
So as much as Thoreson loved people, those who knew him and worked with him loved him right back.
“He was a wonderful man, he was easy going and never got mad,” Classon says. “I could not have found a better man to work for.”