SKOWHEGAN - Gerald E. Vermette, 85, passed away at home, surrounded by his family on February 27, 2016. He was born on Dec. 4, 1930, in Caribou, Maine, the oldest son of Samuel Vermette and Edith Chaloult-Vermette and grew up with his four siblings on the family potato farm.
He attended Assumption Preparatory School in Worcester, Mass. and then Assumption College.
On July 20, 1953, he married Ruth Ouillette, also from Caribou. They lived in the Washington, DC, area for several years, while Ruth taught school and Jerry obtained his doctorate in dentistry at Georgetown University.
Upon graduating, Jerry entered the Army. From 1955-1957 he was a military dentist with the rank of captain, serving at Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia.
In 1957, he and Ruth returned to Maine to set up his dental practice in Skowhegan, where they would raise their six children and turn their house into a homestead for its many visitors.
Jerry was a member of Notre Dame Roman Catholic Church in Skowhegan and very active in his faith. He served as president of the parish council, chairman of the worship and spirituality commission, as a lay minister, and as a Grand Knight of the Somerset Council of Knights of Columbus. He also made a Cursillo and then served on the teams that gave the retreat. He was instrumental in bringing the first Cursillo to northern Maine.
He served as president of the Skowhegan Lions Club and the Toastmasters Club. He was a member of the town's Planning Board and Recreation Committee. He served on the Regional Board of Boy Scouts of America and on the Board of Trustees for the Assumption College Alumni Association.
Jerry enjoyed sharing his abilities in sports with the family, including downhill skiing, tennis, basketball, ping-pong, and pool. He loved to travel and he and Ruth made many winter trips to St. Maarten's in later years.
Dr. Vermette's profession was his passion. In the 1980s, he became the first Maine dentist to practice mercury-free dentistry, convinced it was in the best interest of his patients. He formed the Dirigo Dental Study Group with other dentists who shared his passion for "holistic" dentistry. The group supported him when he had to go before the
Dental Board and when he pushed for state legislation to remove mercury from dentistry. In 2002, then Governor Angus King signed into law a bill requiring Maine dentists to inform their patients that malgam fillings contain 40-50 percent mercury and the health and environmental concerns with using dental amalgam. He also helped set up Maine's dental clinic for low-income people and helped to promote dental health in Maine schools.
Among his professional accreditations, Jerry was: a Member of the American Dental Association, Past President of the Kennebec Valley Dental Association, Past President of the Maine Academy of General Dentistry, a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry, a Fellow in the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, a Member of the L.D. Pankey Dental Foundation, a Member of the International Academy of Preventive Medicine, an Associate Member of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, and a Member of the Holistic Dental Association.
Dr. Vermette was innovative, always working to bring the newest technology into his practice. Gov. Angus King presented him with an award for being the first dentist in Maine to install a mercury separator in his dental facility, which protects water supply from mercury contamination from old fillings removed during the drilling process. All dental offices are now required to have these separators installed in their facilities.
The success of his private practice was largely attributed to his lifelong learning and passion for thinking "outside the box" in support of his patients. He will be missed immensely by all those who are forever changed through his gifted hands. His staff is forever grateful for the opportunities he presented to them. He had a special way of sparking interest in each person and made it his mission to feed that spark through education, understanding and opportunity.
Reflecting on his life, Jerry said he hoped people would remember the unity and love among his family members, the many friendships he made with his neighbors and through his profession, and his faith in God. "Everything that happened is the result of the grace and love of God and the pursuit of the truth," he said.
Jerry is predeceased by his parents; his brothers, Conrad, Bob and Gildo; a sister, Gertrude; and his beloved wife, Ruth.
He is survived by his children, Jean (and her partner Chris), Michael (and his wife Debbie), Mary (and her partner Scott and her daughter Lael Bolduc), David (and his wife Dori and their sons Spencer and Austin), Peter (and his partner, Mary) and Danielle (and her partner, Peter). He also is survived by his sister, Anne; his sister, Ronella; numerous nieces and nephews, a large extended family, and countless friends and clients from around the world.
The family would especially like to thank all the friends, neighbors, doctors, nurses, professional associates, and hospice workers who offered and gave their help and friendship to Jerry and the rest of the family over the years and especially during his final months among us.
There will be a private viewing for family members at Smart-Edwards funeral home. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11am, Friday, March 4, 2016 at Notre Dame de Lourdes Catholic Church, 273 Water Street, Skowhegan. Interment will be in spring.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Anthony's Soup Kitchen, c/o Notre Dame de Lourdes Church, 273 Water St, Skowhegan, ME 04976 or New Hope Women's Shelter, 111 South Main St., Solon, ME 04979.
Arrangement are under the care and direction of Smart & Edwards Funeral Home, 183 Madison Ave., Skowhegan, ME