Dr. Fahey DuWayne Law, D.D.S. (September 20, 1928 — January 2, 2018)
“You should go out with me,” a handsome dental student said to Arlene Rasmussen as she worked the narrow confines behind the breakfast counter of Al’s Café. Arlene swooned under the weight of Dad’s pickup line. She packed her paints and left the University of Minnesota’s art program for the presumptuous man. Sixty-three years later Dad kissed Mom, held her hand and paraded her through Peregrine’s Memory Care facility like it was wedding day. Still the Casanova he was in college, Mom laughed and said, “He never does that.”
Dad’s young mother, Jean Law, and her sister, Amy, raised him. As a teenager, Dad worked the family dairy farm and at an icehouse, the stockyards, and a foundry that punched out military parts. During his undergraduate years at the University of Minnesota, he worked for Phillips petroleum pumping gas and fixing cars. He also worked in a paint factory, drove trucks and learned to fell elm trees within inches of their target.
In 1946, at age 17, Doc shipped out as a Navy medic. His ship carried out World War II clean-up operations and Japanese Prisoner of War transport from China to Okinawa. Afterward, the G.I. bill helped fund his University of Minnesota chemistry degree. But his medical-school aspirations withered after he “saw too much,” including the redundancy of troops who returned from shore leave, “either beat up or carrying social disease.” He decided to work the patient’s upper body as a dentist. The Korean War followed with Dad serving as a Navy hospitalman. That put Dad’s schooling on hold, but he finished his dental degree in May 1957.
Dad took road trips with friends, hitchhiked the U.S. and explored. A professor knew of Dad and fellow classmate George Christensen’s lust for the outdoors and recommended western Colorado as a place for them to set up practice. After he traveled through Glenwood Canyon, he sent Mom a postcard reading, “I can’t imagine us living in a more beautiful place.” Dad chose Glenwood in August 1957, and Doc Christensen picked Rifle. While growing his practice in Glenwood, Dad also worked two days a week in Leadville for an elderly dentist, Dr. Rose.
Dad feared television would “turn us all into village idiots.” Knowledge came from books, classes and service. He studied health care daily and took classes in orthodontics, kinesiology, nutrition, cranial osteopathy, craniomandibular orthopedics, gnathologic orthodpedics, and other five-dollar words we can’t spell — all of which aided his patients.
Dad loved surgery; the more delicate the better. His favorite occurred in Sisoguichi, Mexico. He stitched the perimeter of a cornea, his steady hand guided by powerful magnification and the tutelage of ophthalmologist Dr. Day.
Doc Law was an irascible force for the Republican Party and conservative causes. His patients got a five-minute lecture on dental hygiene and twenty-five minutes on the evils of socialism. Liberals got extra cotton rolls and the slow drill.
But Dad couldn’t walk the talk. His name, Fahey, means friend of the little people, and he was first in line to give his time. He “vacationed” a week for several years in Sisoguichi, Mexico, tilling enamel among the impoverished Tarahumara Indians. His payment was mutual respect and beans on hand-ground maize tortillas. And each year he treated dozens of indigent Native Americans whom the feds bused to his office. Dad offered, “I’m a healthcare provider, not a businessman.”
Doc served as Colorado Grand Commander for the Knights Templar in 1981-82. He bragged of the good work the Masons did via the Shriners Hospitals for Children. He was especially fond of the Knights Templar Eye Foundation. In retirement he raised money for corneal transplants by cooking steaks and eggs at horse shows in Rifle.
Dad also served eight years on the Glenwood Springs City Council in the 1970s. He took the job seriously. Consistent with his quest for knowledge and love of reading, he followed that city service with ten years on the Library Board.
Doc hosted Friday Afternoon Club for years around the large black-walnut dining table he made. He shared gallon jugs of Papa Cribari wine with his friends and talked small-town politics while he soldered removable appliances for his orthodontic patients. If the appliances didn’t fit on Monday, his alibi was Friday’s cheap Italian wine.
Dad married an artist; art married him. He crafted tables, orthodontic appliances, gold crowns and jewelry. For Christmas gifts, Dad and Mom fashioned electro-plated brooches, black-walnut woodworks, and switch plates with enamel art. He grumbled for fifty-two years about helping Mom at the annual Fall Art Festival, but prosecuted his appointed duties and usually bought paintings. Though legendary, the car parts he MacGyvered for our Volvos probably didn’t qualify as art.
Doc’s famous patients included Olympic skier Billy Kidd and oil magnate Phil Anschutz. Dad cajoled Mr. Anschutz into donating seed money for a dental school at the University of Colorado, Denver. The school is now part of the sprawling Anschutz Medical Campus.
Dad cross-country skied and climbed with a host of crazy mountain men. Dad, Doc Stewart, mountain guide Lucas Kovats and others worked diligently to kill themselves, but failed. They skied from Aspen to Crested Butte back when skis were wood, metal edges were science fiction, and skins consisted of green Swix wax. They climbed Capitol Peak several times, roping their way across knife-edge snowfields to summit.
We remember Dad most for being our dad. As kids, we watched Mom and Dad skate with power and grace at the Brown Ice Palace in Aspen. Then they’d sneak away for toddies with Joyce and Doc Stewart while we skated and the Stewart kids skied. Dad took the five of us swimming at Glenwood Hot Springs almost daily; meanwhile he and cohorts soaked away the cold war and world hunger. In summertime the neighbor kids joined us while Dad hit baseballs and coached, “Charge that ball!” We fished the Roaring Fork, shot trap and backpacked the Uintas of Utah, the Bridger Wilderness of Wyoming, the Bitterroots of Montana and several Colorado ranges. When Dad had a patient cancel and no others waiting, he’d dash over to watch our baseball games at Sayre Park. In winter we cross-country skied to Dad’s office near the grade school. We hunted ducks, rabbits and deer. As teens he taught us to have a trunkful of spare Volvo parts, and helped us install them when needed. As adults we kicked him out of the game Balderdash because he knew all of the definitions to obscure words.
Even as Alzheimer’s savaged his brain, Dad remained productive. Each day he delivered a couple of newspapers for neighbors. He rounded the block with a snow shovel in winter and dandelion digger in summer. In death his remains will aid medical students at Colorado Mesa University.
Dad is survived by his wife of 62 years, Arlene Law; his children (and spouses) Richard, Jerry (Laura); Russell; Terri Hailey (Greg) and Jay (Sharlene); his grandchildren Caleb, Isaac, Levi, Theo, Craig, Angela Dach, Kevin, Kerstin, Karsen, Casey Irving, Lee Hailey, Patrick Hailey, Shelby Hailey, Carter Hailey, Jennifer Lim, Stuart, and Tyler; his great-grandchildren Cooper Irving, Mackenzie Irving, Jackson Irving and Susie Irving, Mikayla, Sullivan, Samuel Lim, and Mikenna; siblings, Jeananne Hommedahl, Larry VanGuilder, Sandy Hanson, Anita VanGuilder, Patty VanGuilder and Mike VanGuilder. Fellow mountaineers Doc Stewart, Dr. Bone, Craig Henderson, and Ashton & Tony Durrett; and his college roommate Jim Weinel.
Dad was predeceased by his mother, Jean VanGuilder; his aunt and uncle Amy and Lloyd Davis; fellow mountaineers Lucas Kovats, and Dick & Gregory Durrett; his business partner and fellow raconteur, Chuck Stoddard; his colleagues Dr. Christensen and ophthalmologist Dr. Day; his long-time assistant Micki Gardner; his friends Ray Thompson and Gene Cole; his donkeys Hardrock, Molly and Jake; and six pounds of wheat germ that Mom helped us hide behind a log on a backpacking trip.
Doc Law, wasn’t the infamous Doc Holliday. But he was every bit the Glenwood Springs desperado.
Of Wanlockhead, Scotland and Northfield, Minnesota
Shoe your mules and sharpen your hoes
Wash up your kilts and lay out a bagpipe
Your kin is coming; he won’t tolerate your resting
A memorial service for Doc Law will be held at the Glenwood Church of Christ, 260 Soccer Field Road, on Friday, January 12, 2018, at 11 AM. Please join us for lunch following the service!
Mom is old school, so if you can’t join us but have fond memories, her mailing address is 1610 Cooper Avenue. Or you can donate in Doc’s memory to the Knights Templar Eye Foundation on the web at ktef.plannedgiving.org.
The Law family is deeply grateful for the love, care and many hugs Doc received from the staff at Peregrine Memory Care and Senior Living. We couldn’t have made this journey without your strong support. God bless you all!