LITTLETON — Laughter, they say, is the best medicine, and for more than 50 years, Dr. Robert “Crow” Enderson has made sure his dental patients got their proper doses by scheduling appointments to last an extra 10 minutes.
Born and raised in Littleton, Enderson has practiced dentistry in his hometown since December 1960 but on May 1, he will remove his shingle when his current two-year certification expires.
In his retirement, “I’m going to do exactly what I’ve always been doing,” Enderson said last week at his home-office on Richmond Street, which annually is spending the first two-and-a half months in Florida, taking in Red Sox pre-season games, and then making the trek back to Littleton.
The son of Annie and Lawrence “Hap” Enderson, Enderson’s first and continued love — in addition to his wife — is sports, and he grew up with dreams of coaching college football.
A 1951 graduate of Littleton High School where he played football, baseball and basketball, Enderson got his nickname one day in 1948 when, as the equipment manager for the football team, he was throwing snowballs at some of the players.
One of the players told him “Cut that out or we’ll make crow bait out of you,” and for a short while, Enderson said with a laugh, he was known as “Crow Bait” which was then shortened to just “Crow.”
After LHS, Enderson attended Keene State College where he was a member of the Kappa Delta Pi honor society and where he played tennis, basketball and baseball — as a relief pitcher, “I threw submarine; I was never really fast, I was deceptive” — and where a sports writer dubbed him “the workingman’s Bob Cousy.” Majoring in science, with a minor in physical education at Keene State, Enderson upon graduation enrolled at the Tufts Dental School.
Home in Littleton during the summers, Enderson was the town’s playground director from 1952 to 1960 and while overseeing the program he met his wife, nee Barbara McGinley, while she was working as a lifeguard at Forest Lake. The couple was married in 1959 and have three children: Robert, Jon, and Darcy Ann.
In looking back at the arc of his life, Enderson, who is 80, joked that “my life wasn’t like other dentists.” Where some dentists and many other people work hard at the start of their careers and then wind down as they near retirement, Enderson, by his math, played golf every day he could between 1962 and 1978.
In 1978, “I went to work when they (his children) went to college,” said Enderson, who was never far-removed from golf.
He once had a four handicap.
A former player, coach and manager of the Littleton Townies basketball team, Enderson is a member of the Bethlehem Country Club. He has belonged to the Littleton Lodge of Elks for 52 years and twice led the lodge. Enderson is a past president of the Littleton Outing Club and a member of regional, state and national dental associations. He and his wife — whose nickname is “Red” — are duplicate bridge Life Masters. A 32nd-degree Mason, Enderson is also well-known for the sports banquets he organized that attracted attendees from near and far.
During his professional career and through his extensive involvement in the community, Enderson has met many people he now considers friends, among them Joe McQuaid, the publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader.
McQuaid said Enderson is the epitome of North Country independence, ruggedness, and quiet humanitarianism, adding that the man he knows as “Crow” is also a colorful character who “made me wait at his house one night until halftime of a pre-season NFL game before taking care of two teeth I had knocked out while working at the (Mount Washington Cog Railway) as a teenager.”
“That was true Crow,” said McQuaid, “give you special attention after hours, but introduce you to his love of sports at the same time.”
An “adopted Patriots fan” who grew up rooting for the New York Giants football team because it was the only team whose games were broadcast then in the North Country, Enderson still thinks a lot about the gridiron.
As a boy, “I already had an ‘L’ formation in honor of Littleton,” that, he said, he hoped to use when he became a college football coach, explaining “it was almost like a single-wing ‘T.’” After attending Keene State, Enderson said he considered pursuing a master’s degree in physical education “but I also wanted to be a doctor” and the latter eventually prevailed.
Dentistry has changed much since 1960, said Enderson, who noted that the biggest difference between then and now is the use of bonding resins which allow dentists to easily fix missing or damaged teeth and the speed with which X-rays are done. When he started, it used to take five seconds to do a full set of X-rays, now it is a tenth of a second.
A “one-man operation” for most of his career, although his wife has been his assistant for the past 25 years, Enderson said he’ll miss his patients, most of whom he has gradually referred to other dentists. Typically, a patient would be scheduled for a 30-minute visit, but one day when Enderson’s wife overheard a lot of laughter coming from the examination room, she decided that her husband needed 40 minutes to deal with the combined dental/humor issue.“I always used to like to tell jokes,” said Enderson, “and so did she.”