Dr. Robert J. Bendzak poses alongside a wall filled with pictures of his patients and their families. CATHERINE KRUMMEY / Kenmore Reporter

Kenmore orthodontist to retire after 60 years

Dr. Robert J. Bendzak first opened Kenmore Dental Clinic more than 60 years ago, working as a dentist after leaving the U.S. Navy.

“I was fortunate to have patients waiting for me,” he said, adding his popularity as a dentist in the Navy carried over to his practice.

After working for a few years as a dentist, he went to orthodontic school at the University of Washington and changed his practice from dentistry to orthodontics. In some families, Bendzak said he’s been able to have four generations of patients over the years, adding his career in orthodontics started with the kids of his dentistry patients.

“His practice is like an extension of his family,” his daughter Jody Wellnitz said. “Every patient that walks in is giving Dad a hug.”

That familial feeling also extends to the office’s staffing. His wife, Dorene, ran the front desk for many years and still works on Wednesdays, and his daughters Kim Johansson and Wellnitz have been working there off and on since they were kids. His daughter-in-law Laura Bendzak also helps out with processing insurance.

“We’ve been in it for the long haul,” Johansson said of herself and Wellnitz, adding most of Bendzak’s seven kids have worked at the office at one point or another.

“We were picked up from slumber parties to go to work at 7 a.m. on Saturdays,” Wellnitz added.

The clinic hosts an annual Eggnog and Cookie Day to celebrate the holidays with patients (and check on their retainers), and this year’s two-day event also will give patients the opportunity to celebrate Bendzak’s retirement. Eggnog, coffee and cookies will be served at the event, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 19-20 at Kenmore Dental Clinic.

Bendzak will officially retire at the beginning of 2017, but he will be finishing up the orthodontic work for his current patients off and on for the next six months.

As for what he plans to do in his retirement, he doesn’t have any set plans, other than spending more time with his seven kids and 14 grandchildren, and possibly traveling with his wife.

“I have a lot of books to read,” Bendzak said, joking with his daughters about the stack that’s grown every Christmas, birthday and Father’s Day.

The practice will not be closing down as Bendzak leaves. It will continue with Dr. Eugenia Lee, who actually started at the clinic in August.

“It’s nice to have someone new come in,” Bendzak said, adding he will likely still come into the office on occasion. “I’ll end up being around.”

“She’s just lovely, she seems like a great fit,” Johansson said of Lee.

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