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City dentist's roots in Wandiligong




16-11-1932 25-6-2011


BRUCE Kaighin, who practised dentistry for 40 years with sensitivity and empathy for his patients before devoting time in retirement to his church and community, has died of cancer at a nursing home at Croydon. He was 78.

During his career the profession changed dramatically with the introduction of fluoride into the metropolitan water supply old dental disasters requiring removals largely gave way to more straightening of teeth, dental hygiene and cosmetics.

Born in Ormond into the artistic family of Orry and Dorothy (nee Evans) Kaighin, he won a scholarship at Hartwell Primary School that took him to Malvern Grammar School (which later affiliated with Caulfield Grammar) in year 7 in 1944.

A consistent A-grade student, he continued to win scholarships, played in both the cricket first XI and the football first XVIII, was school magazine editor in 1949 (his ink drawings were a feature), and a school prefect in his final year.

This did not mean he was averse to schoolboy fun. On one school camp at Mt Evelyn in 1947, when boys were billeted in huts the size of garages, he was indulging in "hut raiding" with some other boys when he was heard to say, "Let's throw a rock on their roof." Out of the darkness came an immediate riposte from a voice of authority, "Kaighin, I'll throw a rock on you now get to bed." That was the end of the high jinks.

English and history had been his interests in school, but he was guided into mathematics and science and went on to start dental studies at Melbourne University in 1951. He gained a licentiate in 1955, and a bachelor of dental surgery in 1965.

Kaighin served his dental apprenticeship in Geelong and Belgrave before starting his own practice in Heathmont. He retired in 2002, at the age of 69, but the surgery, now owned by Dr Joseph Langdon, still bears his name and operates with six dentists.

In September 1959, he married Valerie Wallace, whom he had met at the wedding of family friends, and by 1965 they had three children in 1968 they adopted another child.

He delighted in taking the family on camping safaris across Australia they also skied at Mount Hotham and Mount Buffalo. In 1975, inspired by his son Peter's Indonesian studies, he took the family to visit Australia's northern neighbour, and later he and Val toured China and Europe.

Val's death from ovarian cancer in 2000 did not stop Kaighin from further adventures and he joined a group of bushwalkers trekking in Hawaii, France, Norfolk Island and other destinations.

After he retired, Kaighin, a gentle, compassionate man without malice, filled many community interests, which included being vicar's warden at the Anglican church at Heathmont, and after 2009 at the St John's Anglican Church in Ringwood.

For many years he cleaned the church and pruned the roses in the church gardens, having developed his own garden at home.

He was a volunteer at the Heathmont op-shop, packaged and distributed bread to needy families from the local bakery, and was a member of Bushlink, a group that helps to maintain local parks and reserves.

Kaighin was also an active member of the Maroondah Bushwalking Group, and attended classes in history and art at the Nunawading U3A.

Those two subjects resonated with him, given his family background. His great-grandfather, Thomas Kaighin, is buried at the cemetery at Wandiligong, a village nestling in the hills beyond Bright, and where, in a shed, the initials of his father, Orry, and his aunt, Florrie, are carved.

A gold fossicking lease in the name of his uncle, Charlie, is a reminder of those times, as was a drawing of the family's original house at Wandiligong that hung in Kaighin's room at the nursing home where he spent his final days.

Many will also remember some undoubtedly with a cringe the once popular painted plaster casts of three ducks in flight that adorned lounge room walls in countless homes in suburbs across Australia. Family legend has it that Kaighin's father, Orry, who was a ceramic painter, had come up with the idea of the plaster casting technique that led to the duck formation but before he could patent it he joined the Second AIF and went off to serve in World War II.

While he was away, someone beat him to the patent office. When Orry returned from war, he continued his work from the garage of his home in Camberwell until his early death caused through the inhalation of toxic fumes from the paints and lacquers that he used to spray his plaster casts.

Kaighin, in turn, received great support from Patsy Schnaars in his later years.

He is survived by his four children, Peter, Andrew, Jennifer and Meredith and their families.

Graham Farley, OAM, was Bruce Kaighin's friend from school.

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