Revised on: 06.18.2018 at 12:05 p.m.
Posted on: 06.16.2018 at 07:00 a.m.
By Diana Matthews
When two dentists practice side by side for three decades, then they both decide to retire at the same time, they make a lot of people sad, said Sidney Gibson. “There’s been a lot of crying in back.” Gibson and his colleague Darryl Diefes have treated Columbus County families at their shared building at 904 Spivey Rd. in Whiteville since 1987.
“We’re caring for our third generation of patients,” Gibson said. “You can look at our bulletin boards and see pictures of little kids who grew up and brought their own kids to us, and now they’re grandparents.”
Diefes said, “I’ll really miss it. The most amazing thing about practicing dentistry in a small town is that you really live with the people. The relationships you form are so deep. You laugh and cry with people, and you know the details of their lives. That’s what makes it so rewarding.”
Both are now transitioning away from every day practice and gradually handing their patients over to Michael Schut, DDS, a Wisconsin native who comes to Whiteville by way of Mississippi and Wilmington.
Schut (pronounced Skutt) graduated from dental school in Mississippi in 2007, then completed a hospital residency before the notion of “I think I’d like to live at the beach for a year” led him to take a position in Wilmington. Ten years later, Schut still lives in Wilmington and divides his time between patients in Snead’s Ferry and Whiteville.
Schut describes himself as “a dog person” and enjoys water sports but says he is “not hardcore” about his fishing, paddleboarding and paddlesurfing. He is single and is taking his time deciding where he will live as he assumes more responsibility for the Whiteville office. “There are so many moving parts” in the process, said Schut. “Dr. Gibson and Dr. Diefes have been very accommodating.”
The two elder dentists also took their time selecting their successor. When we met (Dr. Schut), Diefes said, “we felt like the chemistry was there. We want to see him succeed.”
They do not feel the need to tell Schut how to do his job, however. With two grown sons, said Diefes, “I stopped giving advice a long time ago.” He said he respects Schut’s “integrity and ability to move forward in ways where I kind of don’t have the energy anymore.”
“I also know that I don’t know it all,” Schut said. That is why he is thankful to be dealing with two dentists who have 84 years of experience between them. Gibson has practiced for 44 years, joining William Maultsby, Ben Ward and Ron Whitson in the Dental Arts Building in 1974. Diefes has practiced for 40 years, starting in Bladenboro before he and Gibson built the Baldwin Woods Dental Group building in 1987.
“That’s 94 years with your count,” Diefes said.
Gibson plans to do more traveling with his wife and spend more time with their grandchildren in Raleigh and Sanford. “We’ve been to three recitals and one graduation in the past month,” he said. Gibson also likes to farm and hunt. Diefes and his wife Wanda form one half of an instrumental-vocal ensemble with Richard and Karen Gore. He will miss seeing his patients and office team, he said. “Knowing you’re an integral part of people’s lives is more than just fixing a tooth. Nothing will take the place of that. And we have the best staff.”
The three dentists plan to bring in another to work alongside Schut eventually. In the meantime, Gibson and Diefes will come into the office enough hours to provide uninterrupted care for their patients. “I’m thankful that these guys are staying around while we look for the right person,” Schut said. “It’s about treating people right, doing good dentistry and developing good relationships.”