Beloved Napa orthodontist Dr. Robert Sprott celebrated his retirement this week with a fete including everyone from Napa Mayor Jill Techel to local developer George Altamura.
Although he formally retired last March, Sprott, 84, celebrated his 56-year career Thursday with a crowd of about 170 friends and colleagues at Compadres restaurant in Napa.
Known for going the extra mile to get to know his patients and taking on pro bono work at Sister Ann Community Dental Clinic and other venues, Sprott said he treated an estimated 10,000 patients during his career.
“It’s just been wonderful helping thousands of kids and adults and (forming) the personal relationships and friendships over the years,” he said.
Because sporting a less-than-stellar smile can hurt a person’s self-esteem, orthodontics is meaningful work, he said.
“You can change the way they think about themselves,” Sprott said. “You can change their self-respect and their self image.”
Sprott launched his Napa practice at 720 Jefferson St. in 1954. In 1969, he moved his digs to 3412 Valle Verde Drive. Decades ago, the area was home to an apple orchard, and Sprott’s office was one of the first buildings on the street, he said.
Napa orthodontist Dr. Mary Cooke bought Sprott’s practice in 2010.
Napa dentist Dr. Adrian Fenderson said he met Sprott back in 1971 when he opened his Valle Verde practice in an office near Sprott’s.
“I didn’t know anybody in town and he was the first person to welcome me,” Fenderson said. “He invited me to dinner to meet his wife, and we’ve been friends ever since.” Today, the friends have lunch together at least once a month. And in spite of Sprott’s newfound retired status, Fenderson said he looks to him for occasional consultations.
“I have a feeling he’s still going to help people out when they need him,” Fenderson said.
Before his retirement, Sprott also enjoyed keeping up on the latest technology in his field by taking continuing education classes, according to his colleagues.
Napa dentist Dr. Monroe Katz said Sprott never stopped attended continuing education courses to keep abreast of new technological advances in orthodontics.
“In his 80s, he was taking these courses to better himself and keep up with modern times,” Katz said.
Sprott, who believes that “knowing your patients” beats high-tech diagnostic tools, wishes he didn’t have to retire. “I’ve enjoyed it and were I capable of doing it longer, I would be doing it still,” he said.
Sprott’s son, Corey Sprott, said although health problems forced his father into retirement, his dedication to his patients is unwavering.
“I think simply saying that he retired when he was 84 shows it was his life,” he said. “He loved his work, and he put everything into it. He treated something like three generations of people and being an orthodontist is what he’s wanted to do since he was a teenager.”
Sprott served multiple terms as president of the Napa-Solano Dental Society and was editor of its newsletter, the Oracle, for about four decades, his son said. He is also a founding member of the North Napa Rotary, and served on the California Dental Association board, he said.
Former Mayor Ed Henderson awarded Sprott the key to the city in 2004 to celebrate his 50th year in practice. Techel carried on the tradition Thursday by presenting him with a proclamation from the city in celebration of his retirement.
Altamura, a Napa developer, said he met Sprott back in the late 1950s when Sprott was building a practice and Altamura owned and ran Alta Cleaners on Jefferson Street.
“I was coming up in my world, and he was coming up in his world at about the same time,” Altamura said. “Napa was smaller then, and people knew each other.”
Sprott’s longtime employee and former daughter-in-law, Julie Deuker, who was also his patient as a teenager, said Sprott’s popularity has everything to do with the way he treated his patients.
“He loved spending time with them and getting to know his patients,” she said. “He’s a very caring and thoughtful man.”
Sprott’s wife of 13 years, Ginny Sprott, said her husband’s clients of yesteryear are still very much part of his everyday life. To this day, she said, the garage of the couple’s Alta Heights home is jam-packed with patient files and X-rays Sprott has yet to part with.
“He just doesn’t want to get rid of them,” she said, smiling.