Dr. Earl W. Gunn Jr., 81: Dentist talked UGA sports and smiles

In Dr. Earl Gunn’s dental office, the talk could jump from smiles to sports in a split second. And on Monday mornings during football season, dental hygiene wasn’t necessarily the most important discussion of the day.

“He was a huge UGA fan and alumnus,” said Sherry Sanders, Gunn’s dental assistant for the past 27 years. “And he wasn’t alone. Most of the office was UGA fans. I’m not a big fan, but I always got an earful,” she added with a laugh.

Gunn, who was born in Florida and grew up in Atlanta, played football at the University of Georgia in the early 1950s. His dedication to the team didn’t end with his graduation. He returned in the ‘60s to help recruit players, family member said.

“It was like six degrees of separation with him,” said Amy Gunn Bortle of Woodstock, one of his twin daughters. “He could always find a way to fit football into a conversation.”

Gunn, who continued to practice dentistry into his 80s, had to slow down as age caught up with him. But he still managed to work four days a week and still have enough energy to attend UGA football games on the weekends. He considered retirement, but never settled on a date.

Earl Walcott Gunn Jr. of Canton died Monday from complications of cardiac arrest, five days after his 81st birthday.

A service is planned for 10:30 a.m. on Friday at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Canton. His body will be cremated following the service. Ingram Funeral Home & Crematory, Cumming, is in charge of arrangements.

After UGA, Gunn enrolled at Emory University’s dental school. His dental residency was completed while he served in the U.S. Air Force, according to family members.

Gunn’s dental career began more than 50 years ago in an office on Ponce de Leon Avenue, said Toni Gunn, his wife of 18 years. He eventually moved to Smyrna, where he had been practicing for the past 30 years.

“He didn’t like to see people in pain,” said Sanders. “He liked to see big pretty smiles on the faces of his patients and employees.”

Gunn treated his staff like family, the medical technician said. He was always willing to help each of them through personal and professional issues.

“That’s why the junior member of our team have been here somewhere around 10 years,” Sanders said. “He was a really good man and football weekends are going to be pretty hard around here for a little while, I think.”

In addition to his daughter and second wife, Gunn is survived by his children from his first marriage, sons, Dr. Earl W. “Cody” Gunn III and Neal Michael Gunn, both of Athens; daughters, Susan McKinney Gunn of Cumming and Bortle’s twin sister, Lee Ellis Gunn Armour, of Newnan; and seven grandchildren.

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