James J. Healy '60
Deceased January 1, 2014
James J. Healy, D.M.D., 75, died peacefully at his home in Sudbury on January 1, 2014. Jim had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer in mid-summer 2013. He is survived by his wife, Sarah (Murphy) Healy; son and daughter-in-law, James and Julia Healy of Hanover, N.H.; and son and daughter-in-law, Justin and Michelle Healy of Bend, Ore.; and five grandchildren. In addition, he leaves his brother and sister-in-law, Stanton and Sarah Healy, of Sudbury. Jim was predeceased by his daughter, Kristen Sarah Healy.
Dr. Healy was born and raised in Worcester, Mass., the son of the late Joseph E. and Mary A. Healy. He attended Worcester elementary schools and was a 1956 graduate of The Governor's Academy. Following graduation from Amherst College in 1960, he was employed by the New England Telephone Company, Boston and served in the Massachusetts Air National Guard. He then pursued a career in medicine. He completed post-graduate studies at Harvard University, Clark University and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Boston, earning his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree in 1968.
Following graduation he purchased a dental practice of in Wayland, Mass., which he relocated to Sudbury where he practiced until retirement in 2004. Dr. Healy cherished his role as a small town dentist in Sudbury, enjoying the family of staff and patients. The dental practice became hugely successful as he was guided by the mantra "good enough isn't." When a patient entered his offices, the "good enough isn't" tagline was prominently displayed in the reception area as well as on baseball caps, tee shirts, and umbrellas.
Outside of his practice Jim became involved in many civic endeavors including the Sudbury Board of Health, fundraisers for the Cancer Crusades, Rotary Club, PRIDE (Post Road Indeed Deserves Effort) projects, as well as Sudbury Youth Hockey. He enjoyed many years at his home on Nantucket where he spent time fishing, boating, and working in his woodshop and garden. Jim's workshop was something to behold with every household tool properly stored and maintained.
While at Amherst, Jim, aka "Squash" or "Helium," was a fixture in the Beta Theta Pi social scene. His energy and creativity resulted in social gatherings which even today bring pleasant memories to those who attended.
I first met Jim at the Governors Academy in the fall of 1953. Our relationship had an inauspicious beginning as shortly after our introduction Jim ran away from the academy. Within a few days he returned, and our 60 year friendship was established. Respecting this bond, Kate and I visited Jim during his final days at Christmas. As we were leaving for our return to Florida, Jim summoned his energy to express eloquently his priorities in life. ... "family, friendships, and professional excellence." Jim achieved all these goals while always keeping in mind that "good enough isn't." Jim will be sorely missed by his family, friends, and those whose lives he touched.
Not scant at all, the number of words I have been allowed to tell a story that should require far fewer. The choice of college in 1956 was not the full time job it has since become. I came from Worcester and proximity to home was important to me. I was then, and remain today, most comfortable in small town settings. Discussions among friends who were making the same choice helped to crystallize the decision and several of us came to the same Amherst conclusion. I do not recall any deep and searching analysis of why I favored Amherst. It was the next rung on the education ladder and I really did not know what I would find.
I was at ease finding fewer constraints and less regulation than I had expected in college. There were no legions of directors and advisors, and the structure of what was studied was comfortably un-regimented with only a few frightening exceptions. In general, I was very happy and satisfied with my choice of Amherst and was comfortable with the atmosphere. It was a good fit. Many of my class choices were more tutorial than actual classroom settings and these were my favorites. Athletics were important but far from primary.
Following graduation I was prepared to enter the mysterious world of business and find my place. I landed a job as an "executive (hah) trainee with New England Telephone, which was thought to be a plum at the time. Nobody really quite knew what to do with me or what to ask of me much less what to train me for. I got good reviews for knowing nothing and doing less which in hindsight was a tipoff. I was one of the few who was pleased to have military service intervene since it freed me from Mother Bell--who kindly kept my job open for my return.
The Air Force proved to be a second strike in my post Amherst life and I was not looking forward to a third! I developed some acreage and built a few houses. I started a rice exporting business which actually worked although I never saw a kernel of rice or any of the ships that delivered it to Africa. Gradually it became clear that I had to develop some plan that would allow me to work for and by myself in something I would build from scratch. One ingredient was missing--some special skill, some challenge, some real interest. I decided to pursue these goals in dentistry and to enroll in Harvard and Clark Universities to acquire some missing entrance requirements for graduate school. This was a major turning point and it felt like my course was set and my bearings were true. That turned out to be only part of the story because then I met Sarah, the most important turning point and the most significant entity in my history. There was now a focus and a good reason to succeed. My re-entry into academia began after we married and lasted for six years when I graduated from Tufts Dental School, already the proud Dad of James Jr., aged one and a half.
For the next forty years my time and energy were spent learning, teaching, or practicing dentistry most of the time. We settled in Sudbury, Mass. and bought the house we still live in. I became the typical small-town dentist with all the civic and personal attachments that entails. Another son, Justin, was born and I tried to become a good Dad to these little men. Years on the Board of Health, Cancer Society Concerts and fundraisers, Sudbury Militia Troope of Horse, Rotary Club activities, High School Safety programs and other similar activities filled many hours. Two new offices took shape over time, and all at once I realized that this was a very good approximation of what I was meant to do.
In addition to my practice, I have enjoyed spending many pleasant hours in my shop, lots of time fishing and boating, and more maintenance time of offices and home than I care to estimate. Sarah and I also found a lot of fun in travel both domestic and foreign. After retiring in 2004, I've been able to take more time to be a "Poppy" to five grandkids and also to take the time to appreciate how fortunate I have been.