ST. CHARLES – Dr. John Dickens took the time to know his patients.
"He was a people person," said his wife, Chris Dickens. "He loved people. By a time a patient would come in, he would know who they were and who their relatives were."
Dickens passed away unexpectedly in 2015 at the age of 74. His dental practice, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, continues under the leadership of Dr. John Mason, Dr. Matthew Faith and Dr. Maggie Hoscheit.
Although Dickens passed away in 2015, his presence can still be felt at the office. A portrait of him hangs in the waiting room at the practice and his name is prominently featured in the logo for the practice.
Dickens, who was born and raised in St. Charles, started his dental practice in December 1969 in his hometown. His practice was originally located above the Klick and Worthley drug store (currently where La Zaza Trattoria is located) in downtown St. Charles.
Mason, Faith and Hoscheit has stayed in St. Charles and is currently located at 2035 Foxfield Road, Suite 103. Chris Dickens first worked at the practice as the assistant office manager before marrying Dickens.
"The saying was that the only way he could get me out of the office was by marrying me," Chris Dickens said.
After the couple got married, she left the practice and devoted her time to raising five children. Lifelong friend Ralph Andrini, who also grew up in St. Charles, had been going to Dickens' practice since he opened it.
To this day, those who walk into the dental office will find themselves among family and friends. Many of the staff members have been at the practice for more than 20 years.
Andrini's daughter, Tricia Miller, had Dickens as her dentist growing up and has been a dentist hygienist there for 26 years.
"She told me once when she was, I think, in third grade, that she was going to be a dentist," related her mother, Donna Andrini. "When she went through high school and heard how long it took to become a dentist, she decided instead to become an hygienist."
Donna Andrini took note of the atmosphere of kindness at the practice.
"They care about the people around them," she said. "Every time Tricia would have a baby, she would take a year off and there would be a job waiting for her. They could not be kinder. They understand each person's needs."
Office manager Nora Kohlert has been at the practice for 35 years. She started there when she was 16 when she was a sophomore at St. Charles High School, performing such duties as cleaning the office, answering the phone and filing documents.
Like other employees there, she started going to the practice as a patient. Following in her footsteps, her daughters also work at the practice.
"My one daughter works up front and she's also a second-grade teacher," Kohlert said. "And my other daughter is going to school to be a dental assistant and has the opportunity to work with all three of our doctors right now as she is going to school. So it's been great."
Kohlert said she can't see working anyplace else.
"It's just a fantastic place to be," she said. "You have all your patients that you know and you love them and they can't wait to see you. They don't care about getting their teeth cleaned, they just want to come and socialize with you."
Carrie Laskowski worked as Dickens' assistant for 17 years before he passed away in 2015. She credited him for teaching her everything she knows about dentistry.
"He was more than just a boss and more than just a dentist I worked with," Laskowski said. "He was like a father figure. I started when I was just turning 21 and I was figuring out my life, what I wanted to do. He raised me, taught me everything I know about dentistry and made me fall in love with just being here."
Mason, the senior dentist at the practice, started practicing dentistry with Dickens in 1987 after having received his Doctor of Dental Science degree from Northwestern University and his undergraduate degree from DePauw University. He completed a dental residency at Charity Hospital of New Orleans.
He tries to value his patients as much as Dickens did.
"I always heard him thank people for coming in," Mason said. "And that's a tradition that we try to continue. We appreciate people coming in to see us."
Mason said the practice also wants to be part of the fabric of the community. To that end, the practice supports several community organizations in the area, including Lazarus House, Tri City Health Partnership, LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, TriCity Family Services, Hope for Haitians and Bunco for Breast Cancer.
He volunteers once a month at the Tri City Health Partnership, providing free dental care to those who need it.
The practice has seen the number of patients grow over the years. It currently sees between 60 and 70 patients a day.
Hoscheit, 27, is the practice's newest dentist. She is the daughter of Kane County Board member John Hoscheit and is a graduate of St. Charles East High School.
"It's a good place to be," she said. "I've known Dr. Mason since I was very little."
As a second grade student at St. Patrick Catholic School in St. Charles, Hoscheit remembers Mason coming to the school and talking about teeth for Dental Health Month. She is enjoying her experience at the practice.
"It's just an easy place to walk into and have a good day and learn a lot," Hoscheit said. "It's exactly what you would want out of a work environment."