BOWLING GREEN — Dr. Robert J. Szana, a retired dentist who maintained a practice in downtown Toledo for more than four decades and volunteered on a team of medical professionals that identified victims, died Nov. 11 in Bridge Hospice in Bowling Green. He was 89.
His son, Glenn Szana, said he died of pulmonary fribrosis. He said his father made the decision to check into hospice the day before his death because he knew he was dying.
“On the Saturday morning he met with doctors and made the decision that he wanted to go into hospice,” he said.
Dr. Szana founded his practice in 1948 after graduating from dental school at Emory University in Atlanta and serving two years with the U.S. Army at Fort Riley in Kansas.
He never left that office on the second floor in the Toledo Medical Building, 316 N. Michigan St., staying there until 1990, when most dentists had left downtown.
Mr. Szana said his father provided a range of dental services without hygienists or other assistants, staffing the office only with a receptionist to handle appointments and office work.
“He did it all by himself,” his son said.
Both his son and Helen Szana, his wife of nearly 69 years, said he was stickler for patients arriving on time for appointments, and if they checked in five minutes past their designated times he would simply reschedule them and move on to the next patient.
“He felt it wasn’t fair to the rest of the patients if he waited on the patient who was late,” his son said.
Mrs. Szana said: “He made sure he saw his patients on time. If they were late he would make them book an appointment for later in the month or whatever.”
Two of the couple’s three sons, David and Jim Szana, followed in the footsteps of their father and became dentists.
Dr. Szana was among area dentists who assisted the Lucas County Coroner’s office in death investigations that required matching dental records with unidentified bodies.
A member of the American Academy of Forensic Science Response Team, he helped to identify victims of the Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crash near Detroit in 1987.
Mr. Szana said his father, who closed his office for weeks to work on the IDs, felt he had a responsibility to bring closure for families.
“He really was proud to be able to work on that,” he said.
Dr. Szana grew up east of Toledo in what was then Oregon Township. For the first 16 years of his life, he lived with his family in a house at a Jewish cemetery, where his father was the caretaker.
He attended a school run by the First Adventist Church and then enrolled at Mount Vernon Academy in Mount Vernon, Ohio, for the last two years of high school. He graduated in 1941 and continued his studies at Washington Mission Seminary, now called Columbia Union College, in Takoma Park, Md.
He married the former Helen Opdkye on Dec. 29, 1943. They had met at Mount Vernon as seniors.
He went to dental school at Emory for two years and then served two years as an Army second lieutenant.
Surviving are his wife, Helen, sons, Dr. David Szana, Dr. Jim Szana, and Glenn Szana, sister, Amy Stockman, 13 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life service is to be at 3 p.m. Dec. 15, at the Toledo First Adventist Church, 4909 W. Sylvania Ave.
Arrangements are being handled by Deck-Hanneman Funeral Home, Bowling Green.
The family suggests tributes to Toledo First Adventist Church or Bridge Hospice of Bowling Green.
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