Dr. Charles Zumbrunnen, DDS, MPH, FACD, former head of the State of New Hampshire Bureau of Oral Health, passed away at Pleasant View Center in Concord on Thursday, May 8, 2014, after a long illness, with his wife, Carole, at his side.
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Dr. Z, as he was fondly known, was "chief dentist" for the state from 1964 until his retirement in 1990. In this capacity, he developed and managed all of the public health dental programs throughout the state, and shepherded legislation to improve the oral health of New Hampshire citizens. He also served as the long term secretary of the Board of Dental Examiners, overseeing the licensing of New Hampshire oral health professionals. He was much loved and respected by all who knew him.
Charlie was born in Grafton, W. Va., to the Rev. Thomas Zumbrunnen and Elizabeth Conaway. His father was a Methodist minister and throughout his life he referred to himself as a PC (preacher's kid!). He graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College, and completed his dental degree at Northwestern University in 1945, with the help of a military scholarship. Upon graduation, he served in the Naval Reserve Dental Corps and the U.S. Air Force Dental Corps in Tientsin, China. He then practiced general dentistry for 18 years in Huntington, W. Va. During the Korean War, he spent two years at Ladd AFB in Fairbanks, Alaska, providing dental care to military personnel in the territory. During his years of private practice, he decided that he could have a greater impact on oral health promotion through public health rather than private practice, and enrolled at the University of North Carolina, where he received his master's degree in public health (MPH) in 1964. Upon graduation, he accepted an offer to become chief of the New Hampshire Bureau of Dental Health, and the rest is history.
In New Hampshire, he immersed himself into all phases of community service, dental and beyond. He was instrumental in the development of the dental hygiene program at NHTI, Concord's Community College, and was a founding member of the Dental Service Corporation, the forerunner of Delta Dental Plans Association. During his early years in New Hampshire, he received a World Health Organization fellowship to study the dental nurse program in New Zealand, an experience he treasured. Over the course of his career, he received awards and accolades too numerous to mention. A plaque given him at his retirement by the Board of Dental Examiners stated: "You have excelled at the fine art of balancing irate patients, delinquent licensees, frantic applicants, and protracted deliberations. The children of New Hampshire thank you, we at the dental board thank you, and the entire dental community thanks you. We submit that the art of Z-ing it will become a new colloquialism!"
Charlie was an avid boater and member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. He was happiest on his houseboat, "Beluga," at Lake Winnipesaukee, where he entertained non-stop all summer and taught the fine art of cannonballing off the top deck while yelling, "belugaaaa." He was also an avid skier and appreciated the senior citizen discount for the New Hampshire ski slopes in his later years. He and Carole travelled extensively, even visiting his ancestral home town, Zweisimmin, Switzerland, where they located his grandfather's birth record. He was also an avid gardener and loved to "putter" around his yard along the river. Charlie was a leader, a visionary, and a consummate and selfless public servant. He respected and was respected by all. One friend called him a Southern gentleman with New England values and dry sense of humor.
He leaves his loving wife of 29 years, Carole Palmer-Zumbrunnen; daughters, Suzanne Zumbrunnen McNabb (Doug) of Anderson, S.C., Cathy Zumbrunnen of Dover, and Jinny Cooper of Concord; brothers-in-law, Victor Skorapa Jr. of Brunswick, Maine, and Ted Palmer (Laura) of Auburndale, Mass.; niece, Alex, Paul Palmer (Libby) of Bethesda, Md.; and niece, Morgan, and nephew, Gavin; niece, Beth McAllister (David) of Atlanta; niece, Olga Skorapa (Steve Hodge) of Massachusetts; nephew, Victor Skorapa III (Jean) of Freeport, Maine; cousin, Doris Lou Sarver of Little Rock, Ark.; several great-nieces and nephews; and many friends. He also leaves his beloved canine companions, Zoe, Snowy, Lola and Muchacho, who brought him great joy.
A memorial service is planned for Friday, June 6, at 1:30 p.m. at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery, 110 Daniel Webster Highway, Boscawen, with a reception to follow at the family residence. All are welcome. Arrangements are through the Cremation Society of New Hampshire, 172 King St., Boscawen.
Memorial donations may be made to the Thomas and Elizabeth Zumbrunnen Scholarship Fund, West Virginia Wesleyan College, Advancement Office, 59 College Ave., Buckhannon, W.V. 26201; or to the
Published in The Concord Monitor on May 13, 2014