JOLIET – In the early years of practicing dentistry, Dr. Richard “Dick” Streitz had a routine for his days off.
He treated children needing anesthesia at the hospital now known as Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center, when the hospital was located on Broadway Street in Joliet.
This was back in a time when pediatric dentistry wasn’t widely available, said Dick’s son, Dr. Mark Streitz, who took over his father’s Joliet practice. In fact, Dick began the first pediatric dentistry department at Loyola University.
Many of the children Dick treated at the old Saint Joe’s had Down syndrome and other special needs, Mark said. Many of those children came from as far as Kankakee and Bloomington, Mark said, and many of those patients Dick never charged.
Mark estimates his father treated 2,000 children over the years.
“He would put them out and do their whole mouths,” Mark said. “That was one of his big passions. But everything he did he was very passionate about.”
After graduating from Joliet Township High School in 1940, Dick attended Grinnell College in Iowa on a football scholarship for a year and a half before entering the U.S. Navy.
During his Navy service, Dick was stationed in Spokane, Washington. He also served on the USS Repose, helping with dental care, and toured the Pacific theater during World War II.
After his service, Dick graduated from Loyola Dental School and then attended the Forsyth Dental Hygiene Clinic in Boston. He spent three years at Loyola University. Dick performed comprehensive, family-oriented dentistry in Joliet for more than 50 years.
Mark was in high school when he began assisting his father at his practice. Mark said he was about 27 when he joined his father and worked with him for about 10 years.
“I remember he’d say, ‘Hurry up and get done because I want to play golf,’ ” Mark said.
All joking aside, Mark said the hallmark of his father’s practice was compassion.
“He basically just treated the patient. He never worried about getting paid,” Mark said. “He did [get paid], but that was not his concern. He never talked about money.”
On his day off, Dick volunteered at the Will Grundy Medical Clinic in Joliet, performing many extractions. He was a Joliet Chamber of Commerce member and a founding member of Joliet Area Community Hospice.
Mark said that in Dick’s early years, he worked so many hours and sat on so many boards that his family rarely saw him. Later, he pulled back from outside commitments and spent more time with his family.
In retirement, Dick played golf and tennis with gusto.
“He was going to do everything to the nth degree, the best he could,” Mark said.
Bob Stephen of Joliet, Dick’s friend, said there was only one reason why Dick, whom Bob met through the Joliet Tennis Club in the 1970s, was his tennis opponent for many years.
“He was so competitive; I wanted to beat him,” Bob said.
Bob said they played tennis from 12:30 to 2 p.m. every Monday and Thursday. But Bob also called Dick “an icon” and “one of the most gentlemanly gentleman I ever met.”
“He was a man that I could trust. He was a man with tremendous character. He was sort of a one-way thinking man; it was either his way or the highway,” Bob said. “I liked that approach because of all the dealings I had with Dick, they were totally above-board and totally honest.”
For 20 years, Bob said he and his wife, Rosemary, had breakfast every Sunday with Dick and his wife, Jean. After 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, everyone headed to the Old Fashioned Pancake House in Joliet.
Bob said he and Dick always split an order – a triple omelette, sausage, well-done potatoes and two pancakes.
“He never deviated from that order for 20 years,” Bob said. “It’s kind of unusual. But he was a man of habit and a man of his word.”
Bob said he and Dick remained friends until Dick’s death on March 21 at the age of 95.
“I was extremely fortunate to spend the last week of Dick’s life at his home,” Bob said, “which is where he passed away.”
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