Retired dentist, civic leader Edwards dies at 87

Published 10:33 am Wednesday, May 23, 2012

FRANKLIN—Dr. Robert Thomas Edwards, a dentist in Franklin for nearly 40 years, died of colon cancer Monday at Southampton Memorial Hospital.

A lifelong Franklin-area resident, Edwards was 87.

“He was in pretty good spirits until the very end,” said his daughter, Nancy Van Der Griend, who came in town from her home in Oak Park, Ill. “He was in pretty good health in terms of doing things until a few months ago.”

Van Der Griend said her father always cared about Franklin and its residents, and after retiring, he did dental missionary work in western Virginia’s Appalachia area. He was involved with the renovation of the Bland Dental Clinic.

“Daddy was just a real optimistic person,” she said. “One of his favorite things about practicing dentistry was he got to see so many friends throughout the day.”

Edwards and his wife of 60 years, Mary, lived in a home on Park Circle for 49 years before moving to an apartment at The Village at Woods Edge in April 2011.

“He was very attentive to his family and very supportive of his family,” said Billie Turner, director of resident services at the Franklin retirement community. “He came into the Village really wanting to enjoy the Village life and all that it had to offer, and they did. They came to dinner and got into a dinner group.”

A 1942 graduate of Franklin High School, Edwards belonged to the Jaycees, Franklin Lions Club, Franklin-Southampton Area United Way, Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, Cypress Cove Country Club, and was a board member and past president of the James L. Camp Jr. YMCA.

He also served as chairman of the Franklin Planning Commission.

Anne Bryant, chairwoman for Heritage Day, remembered Edwards attending the annual event at the Heritage Village/Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Courtland. He volunteered in the medical building, where items from Dr. Darden Jones’ one-time Franklin dental practice are on display.

“He would tell people coming to Heritage Day about the equipment,” Bryant said. “He was great. He loved talking to the people coming in and loved showing kids the old equipment and dentures that Dr. Jones had used.”

Edwards also belonged to Franklin Baptist Church where he served four terms on the Board of Deacons, one as its chairman, and in other capacities in the church and Sunday school programs.