Longtime Gaffney dentist Dr. Ron Barrett passed away Wednesday at the age of 79.
Barrett, a native of Westminster, S.C., opened Cherokee General Dentistry in 1972 after working with the U.S. Army Dental Corps as an intern and eventual Chief of Dental Detachment in Bad Tolz, Germany.
He was one of the first “new dentists” to locate in Gaffney and spent more than 40 years in the practice.
Pam Lester worked alongside Barrett as his dental assistant for 14 years and said he was a “joy to work for.”
“We had a really good working relationship, and he was a good boss — a fantastic boss,” she said. “I loved his family and babysat his children when they went out of town.”
As a dentist, Lester said jokingly that Barrett loved all of his patients, except the ones who “came in after eating lunch at Harold Tindall’s.”
Though not from Cherokee County, Barrett quickly got involved and worked to make the community a better place. He served as the president of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce when the South Carolina Peach Festival was chartered here. At Christmas time, he could be found by a red kettle ringing the bell for the Salvation Army.
Barrett also served as the president of the S.C. Dental Association and the South Carolina Board of Dentistry, as well as on the Limestone College Board of Trustees.
He made regular trips to local elementary schools, teaching children the importance of taking care of their teeth, as noted in Ledger archives.
Dr. Jeff Cleland came to work at Cherokee General Dentistry after graduating from dental school and said Barrett was a great mentor to a “green” dentist.
“(Dr. Barrett) was a great guy and taught me a lot when I was starting out,” Cleland said. “He tried to turn me into a golfer, unsuccessfully. He would take me out to play golf after work. We had a lot of fun. I’m not from Gaffney, so when my wife and I moved here and didn’t know anyone, Dr. Barrett and Mary Nell kind of adopted us. They were really good to us.”
After retiring from practice in 2013, Barrett kept in touch with his “adopted” son, calling often to check in on the office and Cleland.
“He called a lot,” Cleland said. “He actually called last Wednesday and wanted to go to lunch the next day, but he ended up not feeling well so we weren’t able to go.”
The two worked together for 12 years before Barrett retired in 2013.
An asset to the field of dentistry, Barrett received the South Carolina Dental Association’s most prestigious award in 2003 for his outstanding service to the association, dental profession and community.
“He loved dentistry; that never faded,” Cleland said.
To read Barrett’s complete obituary, click here.