Retirement will leave a hard-to-fill cavity in Sparta

   Just like his gut feeling to practice dentistry in Sparta, Dr. Mark Edwards used his instinct when deciding to retire.
   “Doc” Edwards as he is known by most, closed his practice at 605 W. Wisconsin St. on Dec. 31. He sold his practice to Dr. Jennifer Knoll of Sparta Dental Center, 3000 Riley Rd.
   “I’m helping transition my patients to Sparta Dental Center,” said Edwards, noting it is important to him that his patients have somewhere to go to continue their dentistry.
   Edwards began practicing in Sparta in 1976, shortly after graduating from Indiana University Dental School.
   Edwards was passing through Sparta on his way to look for a public health site to begin his career. In his motel room, he read a directory that indicated there were a few dentists in town in their 60s. He thought he should consult with them in case they were close to retiring and there might be room for him here.
   His journey led him to doctors Curt Barlow and Jack Alexander.
   Edwards clicked with Barlow immediately over their shared love of the outdoors. It was the mounts and fishing lures decorating his home and office walls that cemented the deal, and soon Edwards joined their practice on W. Oak Street.
   “Dr. Barlow was a great mentor to me, and Dr. Alexander was very kind,” said Edwards.
   Edwards purchased the W. Wisconsin Street location in 1980, and Barlow and Alexander came with him until their respective retirements.
   In his hey-day Edwards had a patient list of about 4,000, and through most of it was a trio of dedicated staff members. Chairside assistant Barb Schmitz has been with him for 33 years; office assistant Kay Flock has been with Edwards for 32 years; and hygienist Shannon Stuessel has worked for Edwards for 17 years.
   Schmitz and Stuessel also made the transition to Sparta Dental Center.
   “I can’t say enough good things about the women that worked here,” said Edwards.
   Of course, he will miss his patients tremendously.
   “Patients became my friends,” he said. “It was good to catch up with them when they came in for appointments.”
   In his almost 40 years of dentistry in Sparta, Edwards saw multiple generations of families – even four generations a time or two.
   “There’s going to be some sadness because of all the personal relationships I’ve developed with patients,” he said. “But, just like the gut feeling to come here, the timing felt right [to retire].”
   “I’m 66 years old. I’ve got eight grandkids and I’d like to spend more time with them,” he said.
   Edwards’ three adult children all grew up in Sparta. Son Bryan and his wife, Christi, live here. Daughter Allie and her husband, John, live in La Crescent, and son Brad lives in Georgia.
   Edwards has no plans to leave the area. His wife, Lynn, is a dietician with Mayo Clinic Health System.
   “It’s time to do some fun things with my family,” said Edwards, who plans on going to the PGA Masters Tournament in April, fishing in Canada, and making regular visits to relatives in Indiana.
   “This area’s been real good to me. I couldn’t have asked for more,” he said. 

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