Our 80th anniversary - in the very same building in which we began - has us feeling pretty nostalgic, and we thought what better way to reminisce than to take a look at the career of the man who started it all, Dr. Gregory Strobel Sr.
A Chicago native, Gregory started life in a house at 76th and Creiger on the south side. He’d be destined to marry the girl one-block-away and raise their family in the same neighborhood of Chicago. Once the Strobels fall for a location, there’s no going back!
Healthcare must have run in the family - his older brother became an optometrist, and Gregory decided to go into dentistry. He graduated from Northwestern Dental School in 1932 and began practicing immediately. Right out the gate he began as an associate of Dr. Griffith, on the 16thfloor above what was then the Marshall Field’s Men’s store annex.
Like most of us straight out of school, Gregory was eager and naïve, not realizing that one of his very first regular patients was the notorious Frank Nitti of Al Capone and “The Untouchables” fame. While this was short-lived (Nitti was jailed shortly after he began frequenting the office), his family continued on as loyal patients for many years, and the Strobels always received a fruit basket from the Nittis at Christmastime. Gregory Sr. would not realize whom he had been treating until many years later.
His practice continued to grow with infamous and regular patients alike, and he stayed in the same suite of the building from 1932 to 1975. That decades-long stretch had one significant hiccup – World War II. With 13 years in practice under his belt at the start of the war, he enlisted with the Air force as a commissioned officer in the Dental Corps. Gregory held the rank of captain and was stationed in Southern Italy, where he had the depressing task of identifying fallen GIs by comparing their dental records with their skulls. He understandably viewed this as the darkest period of his career.
There was, however, a bright spot in the darkness: his roommate, the local chaplain, brought him along on frequent visits to the now sainted Padre Pio. Being a deeply religious man who passed his conviction down through subsequent generations, these holy moments saw Gregory Sr. in good stead through a very difficult time. In a book written on Mary Astor Pyle- Pio’s devoted follower and USO contact during the war, responsible for hosting dinners for the GIs - you can see Gregory pictured at her dining room table during WW II. Such was the impact of these visits that, for his 25th wedding anniversary, he brought his entire family back to Italy to be received in a semi-private audience by an aging Padre Pio and Mary.
During Gregory’s time at war, the building held his office space - unrented and at no charge to him – through his entire absence. It is acts of patriotism and kindness such as this, so rare to see these days, that have kept the Strobels loyal tenants for the past 80 years. Upon his return he was able to pick up right where he left off and continue to establish his practice.
The 60s and 70s flew by, with the business successful as ever. During these decades Gregory served as the team dentist for the Chicago Blackhawks, attending every home game and providing on-site, locker-room dental treatment as needed. This was a different time with less athletic protection, and the lack of regard for helmets and mouth guards made the injuries even more frequent and substantial than one would expect from a hockey game today. Hence, aggressive players like Bobbie Hull and Keith Magneson were frequent visitors to the office.
The Blackhawks was not the only team on Gregory’s mind during the 60s – once his daughter went to college in South Bend, he and his wife became huge Notre Dame fans. They attended all home football games from the early 60s to the early 80s. This team support was infectious, passing down to the kids and grandkids. Not only did Gregory’s son, Greg Jr.’s, three kids all go to Notre Dame, but they all married fellow students. Go Fighting Irish!
From day one, it was a family-centered business. Gregory’s very first dental assistant was his niece Beverly, who wound up marrying the dental lab technician down the hall Erv Pahlke. His lab persists to this day, under new ownership, and we still work with them to fabricate our dentures – like their loyalty to a place, the Strobels’ loyalty to their people is tenacious and enduring.
The business could not survive as a one-man operation forever, and 1975 saw the addition of Greg Jr., as well as a move to the 18th floor and the addition of two chairs. Yet another family member was brought on at the same time – Greg Jr.’s cousin-in-law Linda joined the team as their first dental hygienist.
A number of colleagues and former classmates of Gregory Sr. retired around that same time, and their kind referrals was just the bump the Strobels needed to keep their business alive and expanding. The Strobels are still grateful to Drs. Burns, Berner, Flanagan, Osusky and Franklin for their support of and confidence in their practice.
With the influx of referrals and addition of staff, it was only a matter of time before another office move was in order. In 1982 they made the move to our current location, now on the 19thfloor and currently a 6 chair practice. Sadly, one month after the move Gregory Sr. suffered a career-ending stroke, and was forced to retire after 50 years of doing what he loved every day. He continued to advise Greg Jr. in all business aspects of the practice until his passing in 1988.
A great family man, patriot and dentist, Dr. Gregory Strobel Sr.’s memory and legacy continue to inspire the practice to this day. As we look back on a great 80 years, at everything Gregory and his family has built, we at Strobel Dentistry are thankful to be part of something so unique and truly special.