After 43 years of service to Carroll County, the area’s most experienced dentist will soon be hanging up the drill and Novocain.
Dr. James E. Kilbourne, Jr. opened his dental practice in Hillsville on October 22, 1973. His last dental appointments are set for August 31.
“It doesn’t seem that long ago that people would meet me and say, ‘Oh, you’re the new dentist in town.’ And now I am the eldest dentist in Carroll County,” Kilbourne said. “It’s been a long career, but I never really burned out. I still enjoy what I do, but as I approach my 70th birthday I think it is time to take some time off. I think my wife Betty is more excited than I am. I am excited too, but I really haven’t had time to think too much about it.”
Kilbourne said he really has no big plans in retirement other than what he already does with his family. He and his wife have traveled for years and will continue doing that, he said, trying to maintain their health as long as possible and watching their four grandsons (all between the ages of 7 and 12) play ball more than they are able to now. Kilbourne plans to stay active in his two main civic outlets, the Hillsville Christian Church Disciples of Christ and The Rotary Club of Hillsville.
“Betty and I talked about maybe moving away closer to the kids, but now the kids have moved closer to us. (Our son) Jason moved from Lynchburg to the Abingdon area at Glade Spring. From his front door to ours is an hour and 10 minutes and it used to be two-and-a-half hours from Rustburg,” Kilbourne said. “We are happy about that and (our daughter) Carrie is an hour-and-a-half away in Eden. Really, this is our home. We decided we don’t want to start chasing our kids around. We will stay right here and we are right in the middle now and they can come see us.”
While Kilbourne is excited about moving on to the next stage of his life, he’s also going to miss his many loyal patients that have been so good to him over the years.
“I have been telling my patients I am closer to them and see them more often than I see a lot of my family because my patients come in on a regular basis. And as trite as it sounds, they really do feel like family. In fact, a couple of patients we were just talking about that this morning, how close you get,” he said. “People get close to their doctors and their dentists and the professionals that they deal with on a regular basis. Nobody likes to change, so I feel sorry for them. They are having to change, maybe against their will. But I keep telling them we have great dentists in our area and they are going to find a good dental home wherever they go.”
Kilbourne said he was fortunate that 10 other dental offices in the area agreed to help absorb his patient load, something for which he was very grateful. He said a good portion of the load will be taken on by the three dentists in Hillsville and Dr. Snyder in Cana, as well as several in Galax.
“I am grateful that my patients won’t be left without a dental provider. That’s what I worried about more than anything,” Kilbourne said. “We tried to get someone to come into our office as a satellite location, but it didn’t work out so I will just be selling my building. I don’t want it to sit empty any longer than I have to. August 31 is my last appointments as of now. I was going to originally wait until December and then I thought I don’t want to be working on that building and emptying it out in the middle of winter. Labor Day just seemed like a good time to quit.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on [email protected]