Dr. David William Heese, 74, dentist and Army veteran


Dr. David William Heese, a retired dentist who performed a root canal on the tusk of an elephant at the National Zoo, died of a stroke Thursday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Towson resident was 74.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Ramona Avenue, he was a 1948 Polytechnic Institute graduate and earned a bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1953. He served in the Army Reserve and was called up for active duty from 1954 to 1956.

He graduated from the University of Maryland Dental School in 1960 and did an internship in oral surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He later taught at Johns Hopkins Hospital and ran its internship program.

Dr. Heese began his practice in 1961 in Towson and retired last year.

In 1963, his wife went into sudden labor, and Dr. Heese delivered his son Bentley at home. He cut the umbilical cord with a carving knife and tied it with a shoelace. His son now resides in Richmond, Va.

"He took care of many doctors from Hopkins," said another son, Dr. Paul G. Heese of Phoenix, who is also a dentist and practiced with his father for 17 years. "He was stern, but not with his patients. He was a healer and was most comfortable in that role."

Dr. Heese was a colleague of Dr. Mitchell Bush, a veterinarian at the National Zoo in Washington. Family members said the two performed a root canal on an elephant at the zoo in 1974. They wrote a paper titled "Pulpectomy of an Elephant Tusk."

"They worked with power tools," Paul Heese recalled yesterday. "And he filled the root canal with commercially available calcium hydroxide. The elephant, then in its mid-30s, kept its tusk until the end of its life."

A year later, Dr. Heese pulled a damaged tooth from an anesthetized pygmy hippo at the zoo.

Dr. Heese was a PTA president at Stoneleigh Elementary School in 1968. He also was a committee chairman at Towson High School from 1975 to 1979.

Dr. Heese enjoyed traveling on cruise ships. He also did carpentry and woodworking.

Family members said he was grateful for 22 years of sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous.

A life celebration will held at 11 a.m. Saturday at First and St. Stephen's United Church of Christ, 6915 York Road, where he had been a member for 40 years.

In addition to his sons, survivors include his wife of nearly 52 years, the former Nancy Warner; two daughters, Cynthia Gayle Heese of Pikesville and Judith Heese Cool of Cockeysville; and eight grandchildren.


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