By: Dr. Scott R. Harden
This article is written with tribute to July 4, Independence Day, and to a patient that I pay homage to as a patriot who helped secure our privilege of freedom, democracy and liberty for this homeland we call the United States of America.
A man with a tremendous passion for life even in his eighties, possessing one of the most fascinating life stories I’ve ever heard, Rollen Franklin is one of those people in life you just love to know and cherish as a patient.
Rollen recently completed a full mouth dental reconstruction in the last several days. We worked together on a relatively complex treatment plan that proceeded very smoothly from start to finish and provided him the trust and friendship of our entire staff. Rollen has only six teeth on his upper jaw and seven teeth on his lower jaw remaining – most are front teeth. He had active gum disease that eroded away about 30% of his upper and lower jaw bone, which made a few teeth slightly loose. He had large fillings that were cracked with active decay, and several old crowns that needed replacement. Rollen simply wanted his teeth to look good and function well.
Eliminating his gum disease with several hygiene visits and the use of antibiotics placed gently onto the top of his gums accomplished his first requirement. Replacing old fillings and crowns to eliminate tooth decay was the next priority. We specially designed precision attachments between his crowns and dentures. These are very comfortable and stable for Rollen and eliminated biting trauma on this teeth permitting them to tighten back up. I prefer to minimize the use of traditional metal hooks on partial dentures that anchor to the teeth because they build up plaque and create “pulling” forces on teeth that actually can cause tooth loss. Balanced function was restored to his bite along with a terrific smile, which were immediately satisfying for Rollen.
Born in 1924, now 83 years of age, Rollen witnessed many amazing facets of our world’s evolution. Born shortly after the sinking of the Titanic and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles ending WWI, Rollen entered the world during prohibition and when talking movies were invented. The year 1924 was the year of the First Olympic Games and the year J Edgar Hoover was appointed as the FBI director. Hitler was already in the news having published Mein Kampf, 15 years before he invades Poland. As Rollen turns two, Babe Ruth establishes his home run record and Lindbergh flies solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Penicillin is invented providing one of society’s greatest gifts while the Great Depression of 1929 signifies one of darkest feared moments in U.S. history that a five year old boy of Rollen’s age simply could not fathom. Rollen grew up in the turmoil of desperation, despair and severe poverty that swept our nation and the entire world with devastating effects.
News of gangsters made headlines, such as Al Capone and Bonnie and Clyde that are killed when Rollen is barely old enough to read his hometown newspaper, the Cleveland Press. Things we take for granted today such as airplanes, helicopters, air conditioning, sliced bread, and even cheeseburgers and bubblegum were all invented during his childhood.
Having barely escaped World War I as a child, and surviving the tragic repercussions of the Great Depression, Rollen embraced the onset of World War II at the age of 19. Facing the most widespread war in history, with the mobilization of over 100 million military personnel, and a final death count of over 60 million people, Rollen enlisted in the 99th Infantry Division of the Army and was shipped to Europe for a campaign known as the Battle of the Bulge. The Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest of the battles that U.S. forces experienced in World War II; the 19,000 American dead were unsurpassed by those of any other engagement. For the U.S. Army, the battle incorporated more soldiers and engaged more enemy troops than any conflict before that time. Germany’s planned goal for these operations was to split the British and American Allied line in half, capturing Antwerp, Belgium, and then proceeding to encircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis Powers’ favor. The German objectives ultimately were unrealized based upon the shear will of men such as Rollen Franklin that epitomize the meaning of our freedom in this country today.
Rollen miraculously survives the war and returns home to Cleveland to experience one of the first treasured moments in his life — his marriage to Gloria Morton. Gloria and Rollen celebrated 60 wonderful years together and had three children, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild. Gloria shared her formula for a happy marriage as the following: “Don’t go to bed mad, and don’t save your good manners for strangers. Treat your spouse with kind words and respect.”
One great historical fact for our own Towne Laker audience is that Gloria and Rollen were nominated the “Sweethearts of the Month” in one of the very early editions of the Towne Laker publication.
Gloria was a person I enjoyed knowing and treating for many years. She passed away May 11 of last year and left a great void. Rollen, now alone, had appreciation for the years they had spent together and a need to really learn how to cook for the first time in his life. “I enjoy eating”, Rollen recently explained to me. “I couldn’t very well eat without a good set of teeth. So, I appreciate the professional level of care I received to restore my mouth back to a healthy condition I can once again enjoy”.
His completed dental care provided him a terrific smile he always wanted with the function he recalls having as a young adult. I was compelled to ask him why, at his age, without a wife to impress any longer, had he made a decision to invest in his dental care. He simply stated, “I had lots of metal put in my teeth back in the Army and never had good looking teeth. I’ve had problems with my teeth for years and now I simply want a nice smile and teeth that I can use to enjoy eating my food.” God Bless him for that.
Rollen’s gratitude cannot be understated for the dental care he received, but it is only a fraction of the enjoyment and respect I experienced helping a man that stands for so much in shaping the history of our great country.