Dr. Mattern to retire after 56 years of dentistry

by Emily Armentrout

When Robert Mattern was a senior in high school, he was like a typical high school student – unsure of his future – until he was assigned a paper over his occupation of choice.

“I just thought about this earlier today. I just happened to choose dentistry to write about and it just went from there,” Mattern told The Paper.

After being impressed by his paper, Mattern’s mother encouraged him to go into dentistry, and after 56 years, Mattern has never looked back.

“Many times over the years, I have thought about what I would do if I hadn’t become a dentist, and I can’t think of anything I would rather do.”

Graduating from Wabash High School in 1952, he went onto Indiana University School of Dentistry, graduating in 1956 and heading into the Air Force. Mattern was a dental officer for two years before moving back to his native Wabash in August 1960, going into a practice with two other dentists at the Wabash Medical Center for 19 years. In 1980, Mattern purchased property and built his current practice.

In 1985, Mattern’s son, who also went into the dental field, graduated from dental school and joined him in the practice. The Matterns have been in a practice together since then, and his son has taken over the practice.

“He’s taken over the property and the building. I’ve just been working here as an employee for the last few years. He plans to be here for a number of years and continue on by himself for a while,” Mattern said of his son’s plans after his retirement.

Over the years, Mattern has been heavily involved in the Wabash community. He has been a part of the Kiwanis Club since 1961, with 48 years of perfect attendance, holding multiple positions within the club over time. He was also the lieutenant governor for the club, which is a regional position. Mattern has been an Elder at the Christian Church since 1963. He was elected for two terms on City Council in the late 60s and early 70s. He has been president of the Chamber of Commerce and on the United Fund committee as well. Mattern currently serves on the Paradise Spring board and the Falls Cemetery board.

“I try to be active in the community. People always say they want to give back to the community. I think you need to participate in your community and I think I have done that,” Mattern told The Paper.

Mattern has also served on the Council for Dental Education for the Indiana Dental Association for 46 years. He has been the president of that council and also has served on the missions board, directly contributing to the dental community by interviewing students applying for dental school.

“I have been interviewing students applying for dental school, probably into the thousands, and have been involved in their acceptance into dental school. I feel like that is a worthwhile contribution to the dental community.”

Mattern will be retiring at the end of September. Though he plans to travel some after retiring, Mattern will return to Wabash, the only place he could ever see his family being.

“We never even slightly considered not coming to Wabash. I had family here. My wife is from here and had family around here too, so there was no question of where we would start a practice. We weren’t interested in the big city life,” explained Mattern.

“Sometimes people say ‘you’re God’s gift to whatever profession,’ but I change the wording a bit. I never thought I was God’s gift to dentistry. Dentistry was God’s gift to me. It’s been a real good life,” added Mattern. 

Posted on 2014 Sep 09