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In Memoriam

Class of 1977 (Orthodontics)


Dr. Engst

E. David Engst grew up spending summers picking fruit in the orchards of Wenatchee; he spent his retirement pulling teeth in a Bolivian coca plantation, where he was known as Dr. Loco. His most cherished titles were Abuelo and Dad.

After graduating from Wenatchee High School, David attended the University of Washington, which he thought was just about the coolest place on Earth.  There, he met Cathy, who would become his wife and mother of his sons, Adam and Cooper, whom he thoroughly indoctrinated to be even more fervent Huskies than he.

Following dental school, he served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.  He hated being called “Sir!” nearly as much as he hated the War.  During his service, he developed a love for oral surgery, but he returned to the UW to become an orthodontist.  Though his sons were his proudest accomplishments, his dedication to orthodontic artistry left the Pacific Northwest with some of its most beautiful smiles.

David wasn’t very good at retirement, and dentistry soon called him back into action, this time as a volunteer.  Although he volunteered in the U.S. at Interfaith Community Health Center and at Homeless Connect with his favorite dental assistant, his daughter-in-law Magdalena, his true passion was volunteering in the developing world.  His work took him to some of the most remote regions of the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cambodia, and the Philippines, where many of his patients had never even owned a toothbrush, let alone been seen by a dentist. He spent years perfecting his own mobile dental clinic—all of which could be packed into five plastic bins and carried in the back of a 4×4 pickup.  His medical-dental brigades found him treating street children in Cochabamba, Zapatista guerrillas in Chiapas, and indigenous Aeta people in the foothills of Mt. Pinatubo.

He hunkered down in his clinic through a Honduran hurricane in a cinder block basement in La Moskitia.

He escaped a military coup by bribing a police officer to whisk him through Tegucigalpa’s maze of tanks and troops, barricades and burning tires to fly out just moments before President Zelaya himself fled from the same airport.  David soon returned.

He found a notorious Bolivian prison a bit beyond his comfort zone.  And, after being held at gunpoint one too many times, he moved his dental operation from the jungles of Latin America to the mountains of the Philippines.

Of all the harrowing adventures, however, David considered his first (and final) piano recital, at age 57, as the most terrifying day of his life.

After 18 years of volunteering in the most dangerous and impoverished parts of the globe, the winningest coach in college basketball history, Mike Krzyzewski, presented David with the AAO Humanitarian of the Year Award.  Following his acceptance speech, the legendary Coach K told David that he was his hero; David told Coach K that he didn’t know who he was, but that he seemed very nice.

David skied the slopes from Mt. Baldy to Spirit “Molehill” Mountain; he sailed the seas from Bora Bora to the British Virgin Islands.  The only thing that brought him more joy was teaching his sons to ski and sail alongside him. Much to the chagrin of local Olympic champion Picabo Street, he would never hesitate to inform anyone and everyone that his beloved little sister, Darlene, was in fact the very best skier in Sun Valley.  He always had a special place in his heart for Darlene.

In his final years, he split his time between performing oral surgery in the Philippines and extracting nickels and dimes from the ears of his grandchildren, Kiara, Giovanni, Jackson, Natalie, and Evelyn.  He relished his role as Abuelo.

Surrounded by his sons, Adam and Cooper, and their wives, Magdalena and Anna, he passed peacefully on Aug. 11, 2022 from interstitial lung disease, which he contracted from moldy living quarters while serving the people of the Philippines.