Dentist Loved His Patients Man’s work ethic stemmed from growing up during Depression

Albuquerque Journal – Lloyd Jojola – Ralph Montoya practiced dentistry in the Albuquerque area for some 35 years, and one thing remembered about him is that he always looked forward to going to work. “To him, it was a privilege,” said Gilbert Montoya, his oldest son. “He loved what he did.” What he loved was caring for people — his patients. “He went out of his way to make sure that people were happy with his work, and I think his patients appreciated that,” said Maria Preciado, Montoya’s daughter. “I still get, to this day, people who remember my dad and the care that he gave them and how generous he was and compassionate. “It makes me very proud.” Wagon Mound-native and World War II veteran Ralph “Doc” Thomas Montoya died Monday. He was 90. Funeral Mass was celebrated Thursday at Immaculate Conception Church. He was buried at Santa Fe National Cemetery. “The ‘legend’ — I’ve never been able to verify this but this is the only thing that would make sense as to why he went into dentistry — is that he had developed a toothache,” Gilbert Montoya said. “The dentist removed his tooth, and the light went on: Any man who can provide this kind of pain relief to a human being; this is what I want to do.” Montoya was 4 when he went to live with his grandmother. She basically raised him, and his circumstances and upbringing shaped him. “I think one of the greatest attributes that he gave us all was his work ethic,” Preciado said. “He was just a phenomenal, persistent, dedicated worker — as a dentist, at home and as a father. He worked so hard for all of us. I think that era of that generation — he grew up during the Depression — that’s what you did. You worked to provide.” Montoya attended St. Michael’s school in Santa Fe. And as a boxer and runner, the athletic, and “mischievous,” Montoya earned his keep working as a janitor and selling candy, Gilbert Montoya said. He graduated at an early age and attended New Mexico State University. But with second World War arriving, he enlisted, and was ultimately trained as a front gunner in a B-24 Liberator. He flew some 14 missions in the Pacific Theater. Montoya graduated from Creighton Dental School in 1949, and as part of the Air Force, he served at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and then was assigned to Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada. Montoya returned to New Mexico in 1953 and began more than three decades in dentistry by practicing with another dentist in Albuquerque’s North Valley. He opened his first practice on Menaul, then moved to locations on San Mateo and finally Wyoming before retiring. “The gift he had was he truly did the best he could for every one of his patients, and he was beloved because of that,” Gilbert Montoya said. “If something didn’t go exactly right, his patients didn’t blame him because they felt he was doing the best he could for them.” At home, with family, Preciado believes Montoya’s greatest joy was his grandchildren. “My kids still remember. He would come by every Friday and play with them, feed them, just that interaction,” she said. “So much joy on both parts.” Montoya helped establish the dental care unit at the New Mexico Veterans Center at Truth or Consequences after retiring, and served in other capacities, including as a volunteer AARP delegate and with the state Health Commission. He was a Knights of Columbus member, helped get Queen of Heaven Church built and was involved in organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Elks, Optimist Club and Boy Scouts over the years. “He never met a cookie, piece of candy, or slice of pie that he didn’t like — and he was a dentist!” his son-in-law Lupe Preciado wrote. “It could very well be that his last meal was a couple of Girl Scout cookies he had purchased from his granddaughter, Gabriella. This would explain the great big smile in his heart as he passed.” His survivors include his children, Ralph Gilbert Montoya and his granddaughter, Glynis Kate Montoya; Michael Anthony Montoya and his wife, Christine Montoya, and his grandson, Rudolfo Tomas Montoya; Joseph Ronald Montoya; and Maria Dolores Preciado and her husband, Lupe H. Preciado, and his grandchildren Gabriella Maria Preciado and Joaquin Merced Preciado.

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