We are very sad to report that Brattleboro Rotary Club Charter Member Phil Dunham passed away November 10, 2011. A celebration of his life will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday, November 19, 2011, at All Soul's Church in West Brattleboro.

To view Phil's obituary, please click here.

Please see below for the article by Chris Garofolo that appeared in the November 16th Brattleboro Reformer.

 
Brattleboro mourns 'Flying Dentist' Dunham 

By CHRIS GAROFOLO / Reformer Staff / November 16, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- Dr. Philip H. Dunham did more than just take care of teeth for more than four decades ... he took care of Brattleboro.

A man of incredible warmth and spirit, Dunham was Brattleboro's own ski-jumping, tennis-playing dentist known throughout the community as a key figure in local government and commerce. From his tenure as president of Brattleboro's Outing Club to his years as a charter member of the Rotary Club, he served as a staple in his efforts to preserve Harris Hill Ski Jump and promote outdoor physically activity for local children.

"He was a true community man," said Jerry Theberge, his former dental associate for six years.

Dunham, a man known throughout Brattleboro as "The Flying Dentist" for his natural ski jumping abilities, died Nov. 10 in his Upper Dummerston Road home. He was 88.

Although Dunham is gone, his vision of community lives on within his kin. The doctor's oldest son, Jeffrey Gordon Dunham of Starksboro, remains committed to local government in his town, serving as a planning commissioner and volunteer with children learning how to ski.

"For me, dad was just hugely involved in the community. And he felt it was so important to get kids out playing sports. And I'm doing some of the same things he did, trying it in a different way up north," he said.

Hanging on Jeffrey's wall are old newspaper clippings about his family, including his father's Windham County citizen of the year award from 1994 and an article from 1988 citing his parents as unsung heroes in the region. Dunham and his wife Mary were honored in October 1988 during the 75th anniversary of the Reformer for their work in restoring the ski area at Living Memorial Park.

"I guess that's really the one thing that really stands out is how important the community is and I think all of my brothers feel the same," Jeffrey Dunham added.

During his 40 years as a general dentist in Brattleboro, Dunham's first service was to his clients around the region.

"Phil was very meticulous in his care of his patients. He was a great mentor to me, he always took a lot of time with his patients and treated them with the utmost respect and took good care of them," Theberge said. "His work is still holding up these days."

The first public announcement from Dunham came on Aug. 7, 1948 when he became an associate with Dr. Roy D. Neumeister on Western Avenue. In 1952, it was reported he would open a High Street office with John Worden.

Dunham served on the Board of Dental Examiners in Vermont from 1983-1987, the last year he was selected as chairman. He also served on the Northeast Regional Board of Dental Examiners for 13 years.

Theberge has been a dentist in Brattleboro for nearly 30 years, crediting Dunham for bringing him to the Green Mountain State.

"I came in and met with Phil and we hit it off right away. He took the time to show me around town, introduce me to people. It made me feel comfortable right from the start," he said. "I couldn't have practiced with a better person, he was just fantastic."

Eric Barradale, a Guilford resident who knew Dunham for nearly 70 years, said he was the best natural athlete he has ever seen.

"Pound for pound, Phil Dunham was the best athlete I ever competed against and with," Barradale said. "He was a tremendously honest, straightforward guy, a very nice person."
The two men had much in common, starting with the fact they both became dentists in the Brattleboro area. Both were excellent tennis players while at Brattleboro High School, part of a "perfect storm" of athletes coming through at the time.

Barradale played tennis with Dunham until their late eighties.

"Phil and I got to know one another in high school and we played tennis at the club court in the summers. We were very good tennis players for that era," he said. "My senior year, I was captain and Phil was a year behind me ... we had a season where we lost no match with any other schools in the state."

Brattleboro's tennis teams dominated the state beginning in the late 1930s, winning four straight titles from 1938-41. Both Barradale and Dunham were included on the 1940 team, which also had Edward Nicholas, Raymond Churchill, Williams Saunders, Jacob Estey and Gilmore Walter.

"We did very well," Barradale said.

But as good as he was on a tennis court, Dunham was equally gifted as a winter sports athlete.

In 1957, Dunham won the veterans division at the Harris Hill Ski Jump. Three years later, he had the longest jump in the veterans class at 184 feet.

The high-flying doctor would go on to win the veterans title seven straight years and was inducted into the Masters Hall of Fame in 1990. He is oftentimes credited along with Fred Harris and Alan Sargent as the three men who established and maintained the ski jump for nearly a century.

"He'd be one of the three. He was very instrumental -- if it wasn't for him, Harris Hill never would have continued. He was instrumental in keeping it going for sure," said Harris Hill historian Dana Sprague, who was a ski jumping student under Dunham in the late 1960s. "He won the Masters division in 1961, which was held in Brattleboro. That was his biggest triumph for sure, we talked about it many times and that was a big deal."

Jeffrey Dunham fondly remembers going to ski jumps as the oldest child.

"My mom was a good sport, she'd stay home with the younger kids and we'd get to go to places like Bear Mountain, New York, which was pretty exciting for me," he said.
Dunham also served as president of the Brattleboro Outing Club for 16 years. The current president, Dave Twombly, said Dunham was an amazing athlete.

"He was a very avid tennis player, he loved to cross-country ski, but what was really amazing was when his wife was going through some issues a couple of years ago, they would come back and do a few loops on the cross-country ski area in Brattleboro," he said. "They were probably 85 or so, and that to me is amazing."

Initially joining the outing club as a preteen, Dunham remained a member for more than 80 years. Together with his wife, the Dunhams were major components to the club's programs at Living Memorial Park in Brattleboro and Hogback Mountain in Marlboro.

The couple was also influential in the club's popular ski/skate exchange program, which Twombly said will be renamed in Dunham's honor.

"He and his wife both had a very strong affinity for getting the kids involved in programs. One of the big emphasis with the Brattleboro Outing Club is that it doesn't cost very much to join, whether it's the tennis program or the ski program, and Phil was always a great promoter of everything the Outing Club did," Twombly said.

While perhaps most widely recognized by his flying dentist moniker, Dunham also served Brattleboro as a chairman of the local Boy Scouts. He was involved with the town's school board, finance committee and recreation board and served as a Town Meeting representative as well.

In March 1974, he won a three-year term on the Brattleboro Union High School Board, but lost a write-in campaign in 1977.

"He was an ardent supporter of Harris Hill and helped many of the jumpers out. One of the nicest people in our community and I was deeply saddened when I heard he passed away. He will be missed," said Selectboard Chairman Richard DeGray. "He certainly was a real treasure and he was one of those people who ever looked for applause or notoriety. He did many things for many people and for the community as a whole and recognition wasn't his ulterior motive, he was just a really nice man who loved Brattleboro."

A Brattleboro native, Dunham was born in his family living room on July 5, 1923, to Bertha Penley Dunham and Harold Hiram Dunham. After graduating from high school, he received his dental degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1946 following two years of pre-dental training at Middlebury College, where he was a decorated skier and hockey player.

Following dental school, the doctor served as a naval dentist in Newport, R.I., and Norfolk, Va., for two years. During his time in the Navy, he met his future wife, Mary Gordon in Virginia Beach and married her on Feb. 5, 1949.

The couple had four sons, all of whom learned to ski at a very young age.

"We all ski, we all love to ski," said Jeffrey Dunham. "We all did a little jumping, but dad was a tough act to follow."

The All Soul's Church in West Brattleboro will host a celebration of his life this Saturday, Nov. 19 beginning at 4 p.m.

Chris Garofolo can be reached at cgarofolo@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 275.
 
 
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