CASA GRANDE — After a decades-long career, local dentist Dr. Robert Hankel is retiring.

Hankel announced his retirement in a recent letter to patients, colleagues and friends.

“Due to my ongoing physical disability, I have made the very difficult decision to retire, effective in the middle of January,” the letter said.

His partner, Dr. Christopher Ehrbright, will continue the dental practice, the letter said.

“My wife, Carol, and I shall remain in Arizona. Volunteer work of some nature is on the horizon as my health returns,” he wrote.

In the letter, Hankel mentions feeling blessed to have had a rewarding career as a dentist.

“Forty-nine years ago this Christmas, I had just finished my first semester as a dental student at Loyola University School of Dentistry in the Chicago area,” he wrote. “Little did I know then what a rewarding, blessed and totally satisfying career lay before me. In my nearly 50 years as a practicing dentist, it has been my greatest privilege to know so many wonderful partners, colleagues, mentors and team members.”

Hankel was born and raised in Chicago, where, in 1974, he received the DDS degree from Loyola, according to the dental practice website.

He practiced dentistry in Chicago for 18 years before he and his family moved to Arizona in 1992.

Hankel and his wife have two grown daughters.

In 1998, he purchased a partnership with another local dentist and later became the sole owner of the practice when the other dentist retired.

In 2015, the practice again became a partnership when Ehrbright joined the dental office.

Over the years, Hankel has donated dental services to the national Give Kids a Smile program. He was a member of the Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce and supported community events and sports programs, the practice website said.

Throughout his career, he had several areas of special interest including the diagnosis and treatment of temporomandibular disorders and obstructive sleep apnea.

He also enjoyed making dentures for people missing most or all of their teeth and has said “denture construction is an “art form,” according to the website.

“By far the most wonderful reward has been the care and treatment of all my patients from the very first one in Chicago to the very last one in Casa Grande,” Hankel wrote in his retirement letter. “It has been such an honor to be your dentist.”

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.