Member-Only Access: To view the contents of this post, you must be logged in.
Archive for month: August, 2019
Member-Only Access: To view the contents of this post, you must be logged in.
Dr. William E. Wicheta, 1926-2019
By Tom Wicheta, DDS
and Jonathon Kimes, DDS
Our dental community recently lost a great one. Dr. William Edwin Wicheta Jr. passed away in June at the age of 92. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Tom Wicheta and his family during this time of transition. Dr. William Wicheta was a long time member of our community and dental society, and during his life, he seems to have achieved more than anyone of us could hope for. But it’s not just what he did, or where he went, but more importantly the way he did these things. Legacy, to its fullest extent. Please join me in remembering a true hero.
Husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, great grandfather, chemist, dentist, decorated WWII combat veteran, genuine cowboy, hunter, mountaineer, fisherman, skier, woodworker, photographer, marksman, sky diver, pilot, UT football player, and craftsman. Dr. Wicheta was all of these and more. He lived a life bridging the two worlds of old Texas pioneers and modern science, while being the ideal husband and father.
Born in Taylor, Texas on October 21, 1926, his father died fighting a fire leaving him and his sister to grow up in poverty. Sent to west Texas for supposed health issues, he grew up on his uncle’s isolated ranch without electricity or plumbing. This taught self-sufficiency and he learned to fix about anything. He also learned to ride and learned to be an expert hunter and marksman, skills that he felt kept him alive during WWII. At age 17 he enlisted in the US Army and served in the Pacific with the 25th infantry, getting a battlefield promotion to sergeant, engaging in behind the lines assignments and earning the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart for wounds that would plague him in later life. His 25th infantry was the first regular Army troops to occupy mainland Japan after the surrender. On return he married Virginia Weinheimer. Her father had some reservations about Bill initially, as while dating Virginia, he had rented a plane in Austin, flew out to the countryside in Stonewall where they lived, and made several passes buzzing their house to impress his new girlfriend. Alvin Weinheimer, a stoic German fellow, was not impressed!
After the start of their 71 year marriage, they worked their way through college at the University of Texas. His jobs included building the Max Starcke Dam, working with the Texas Rangers as a bodyguard to the Texas Governor Al Shivers, rough necking in oil fields, and a water taxi driver. He obtained a degree in Chemistry and graduated second in his class of 60 from Baylor Dental School in 1956 and opened an office on Burnet Road where he practiced for over 40 years. Growing up on a west Texas ranch had given him that open, easy cowboy way and he could make friends with just about anyone he met. In fact, it was often said that he could make friends with a fence post!
Growing up without a father gave Dr. Wicheta the perspective needed to prioritize the well-being of his three children. He still managed to have a very busy dental practice (at one time the busiest practice in Austin), become a competitive golfer, and won many bass fishing tournaments, being inducted into the Texas State Bass Tournament Hall of Fame in 2005. He was a key founder of some Texas fishing and hunting clubs, taught his kids to hunt, got a private pilot’s license with instrument and multiengine rating, and volunteered free care to Brackenridge Hospital ER. Later in life he took up knife making. His Army combat knife reproduction was so excellent strangers began commissioning him to make copies. Inspired by his trips to Alaska by the Inuit, he began to do beautiful soapstone carvings. He was asked by Glastron Boats to be a consultant when they developed a bass boat line. Whatever he pursued, he worked to master it. He developed a patent on an oral care product that was bought by Pfizer. In his 40s he led his family’s new obsession with backpacking, mountaineering and climbing. He thus, for once, broke a promise, the promise he made to himself as he was discharged from the army to never ever wear a pack again! Along with his wife and children (then 9, 13, and 15), he summited Mt. Rainier. About this time, he began skydiving, getting his own gear and making many free falls. He was always trying new things, as when he got on a bread making kick and supplied the family with sourdough bread for years. He supported his kids in all their interests and endeavors, and with them took up their newest pursuits of canoeing, cross country and downhill skiing – the latter near age 60.
Visits and adventures with a longtime friend, a younger dentist in Anchorage, prompted him to get an Alaskan dental license allowing him to practice part time there. His mentorship as a health care provider produced careers of pharmacist, physician and dentist for his three children, a nurse practitioner granddaughter and two grandchildren as dentists.
As he faded in later life both physically and mentally, he remained a cheerful and pleasant person to all around him, including all his care staff, to the very end. After two years in hospice, longer than the family imagined possible, the old cowboy went to the final range on June 28, 2019, at the age of 92. Virginia, still alive, lost the love of her life after 71 years of marriage. Among his last words was the eagerness to see his sister and mother again. His was a life well lived, to say the least.
Benjamin Lewis Salomon (1914 – 1944) was born into a Jewish family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 1, 1914. He was an Eagle Scout, one of nine who were awarded the Medal of Honor. He graduated from Shorewood High School and attended Marquette University, before transferring to the University of Southern California, where he completed his undergraduate degree. He graduated from the USC Dental School in 1937 and began a dental practice.
In 1940, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and began his military service as an infantry private, qualifying expert in rifle and pistol. In 1942, he was notified that he would become an officer in the Army Dental Corps and was commissioned a first lieutenant. In August 14, 1942, the 102nd Infantry Regt. commanding officer declared him the unit’s “best all-around soldier”. In May 1943, he was serving as the regimental dental officer of the 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. He was promoted to the rank of captain in 1944.
In June 1944, Salomon saw his first combat — going ashore on Saipan with the 105th Infantry. With little dental work to do during active combat, Salomon volunteered to replace the 2nd Battalion’s surgeon, who had been wounded. As the 2nd Battalion advanced, casualties were high. On July 7, Salomon’s aid station was set up only 50 yards behind the forward foxhole line. Fighting was heavy and a major Japanese assault soon overran the perimeter, then the aid station. Salomon was able to kill the enemy that entered the hospital tent and ordered the wounded to be evacuated, while he stayed to cover their withdrawal.
Medal of Honor Citation
CAPTAIN BEN L. SALOMON
UNITED STATES ARMY
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Captain Ben L. Salomon was serving at Saipan, in the Marianas Islands on July 7, 1944, as the Surgeon for the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. The Regiment’s 1st and 2d Battalions were attacked by an overwhelming force estimated between 3,000 and 5,000 Japanese soldiers. It was one of the largest attacks attempted in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Although both units fought furiously, the enemy soon penetrated the Battalions’ combined perimeter and inflicted overwhelming casualties. In the first minutes of the attack, approximately 30 wounded soldiers walked, crawled, or were carried into Captain Salomon’s aid station, and the small tent soon filled with wounded men. As the perimeter began to be overrun, it became increasingly difficult for Captain Salomon to work on the wounded. He then saw a Japanese soldier bayoneting one of the wounded soldiers lying near the tent. Firing from a squatting position, Captain Salomon quickly killed the enemy soldier. Then, as he turned his attention back to the wounded, two more Japanese soldiers appeared in the front entrance of the tent. As these enemy soldiers were killed, four more crawled under the tent walls. Rushing them, Captain Salomon kicked the knife out of the hand of one, shot another, and bayoneted a third. Captain Salomon butted the fourth enemy soldier in the stomach and a wounded comrade then shot and killed the enemy soldier. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Captain Salomon ordered the wounded to make their way as best they could back to the regimental aid station, while he attempted to hold off the enemy until they were clear. Captain Salomon then grabbed a rifle from one of the wounded and rushed out of the tent. After four men were killed while manning a machine gun, Captain Salomon took control of it. When his body was later found, 98 dead enemy soldiers were piled in front of his position. Captain Salomon’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Captain Salomon is the only dentist to receive the Medal of Honor.