Well-known Aspen dentist dies
William L. Comcowich, a longtime dentist in Aspen known around the world for his knowledge in the field, died last Tuesday at his home in Ridgeway after a short illness.According to his Aspen friends and colleagues in dentistry, Comcowich’s specialty was occlusion – how a patient’s teeth come together when he or she bites. He regularly traveled the world to lecture on the topic and garnered loyal patients to his practice on Main Street despite a reputation for being the priciest dentist in town.”He was very expensive, and people always complained, but I thought he was worth every penny,” said Aspen resident Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, who became a close friend of his over the years. Dr. David Swersky came to town prepared to open his own dental practice in 1970. He said he had heard that the two dentists in town were “very protective of their territory,” but he mustered up his courage and introduced himself to Comcowich one day.
“He greeted me with open arms – he was warm and friendly,” Swersky said. “He is probably one of the experts in the world in occlusion.”Swersky said he considers Comcowich a mentor, studying with him and seeking his advice. Comcowich was generous in sharing his knowledge with his colleagues, Swersky said.Hayes said that Comcowich went through dental school as he was serving with the U.S. Navy, and came to Aspen after graduation. His longtime hygienist and good friend for 40 years, Gae Daggs, said he moved to Aspen in 1962, where he raised all three of his children.Around town, Comcowich became known for being outspoken and hard-headed. Friends said he had a quick temper and although he was elected to the Aspen City Council in the early 1970s, in 1972 voters chose to recall his seat.”You either hated him or you loved him,” Hayes said.
According to The Aspen Times of Oct. 19, 1972, the recall petition circulated around town charged the councilman with character assassination and having a conflict of interest he did not disclose regarding a water line project. After the November election, Jim Breasted replaced Comcowich on the City Council.”They ran the town in those days like an old Western town, and it was a good ol’ boys’ network,” Swersky said. “He was one of ’em, and eventually someone didn’t like him and there was this political brouhaha. Of course, now that sort of thing is common in Aspen.”Swersky notes that Comcowich’s stubborn ways can also be interpreted as perfectionism, especially on the job. “He was a perfectionist. If it wasn’t perfect, he was going to make it perfect,” he said.One of his hobbies also garnered a lot of his time and the attention of the town – Comcowich was a truck enthusiast.
“He had a Mack truck he drove in Aspen parades, and he was written up in a lot of trucking magazines,” Hayes said. Comcowich had driven tractor-trailers in college, and later in his travels would spend time driving the large trucks in Alaska and even Australia.”When he went to Australia to give a lecture he didn’t tell me about all the tourist stuff you can do – he talked about getting to drive a huge truck through the desolate outback,” Swersky said. “He didn’t talk about the Great Barrier Reef. He talked about driving through the outback.”Comcowich sold his dental practice several years ago to Dr. Lloyd Herman. He retired in the spring of 2004 and moved to Ridgeway. Daggs said his three grown children were with him last Tuesday night when he died.A memorial service for William L. Comcowich is planned for Saturday at 1 p.m. in Denver at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, 2626 Seventh Ave. near Cherry Creek. A reception will follow at the Denver Botanic Gardens.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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