Originally published in the June 21, 2017 print edition of the West Sacramento News-Ledger
The first dentist to ever practice in the West Sacramento region Dr. Oliver E. Quam died on Saturday, April 22, 2017 in Auburn. He was 96 years old.
Quam, who was born on Nov. 6, 1920, the youngest of 10 children, died of natural causes and old age, according to members of his family.
Quam, who friends and family called Ollie, short for Oliver, moved from his family farm in Minnesota to West Sacramento in the 1950s after serving in the Navy, according to his official obituary, published in the Auburn Journal on May 23, and information provided by the family.
Quam earned his degree in dental from the University of Minnesota and then travelled to San Francisco with several friends from the military where they took their medical license exams. He then established his dental practice in the heart of West Sacramento some 30 years before it officially became a city.
After a brief stint in the building across from the city library, the medical office moved to the Pioneer Building at 1035 Jefferson Blvd. where it remained for more than 30 years until Quam retired in the mid-80s and the building was sold.
Upon retirement, Quam dedicated his time to his true passion of farming. He owned 8.9 acres of farm land in Auburn, which he called “Tooth Achers,” a play on the word “acres.”
Quam is survived by his wife of 39 years Jeanne Quam, his children Nancy L. Quam-Wickham, Jean M. Nakano (Ron) and David M. Quam; his children by marriage John R. Boese, Charles R. Boese (Sue), Michael C. Boese (Diane), Pam M. Card (Joe) and Cara J. Wefers (Patrick); his grandchildren Laura Wong (EJ), Claire Quam-Wickham (Ben), Lindsey Nakano, Thomas Nakano and Rose Quam-Wickham; his grandchildren by marriage Ryan Boese (Shannon), Woody Boese (Kyrie), Nicolas Card (Jaci), Lisa Boese (Michael), Michael Boese, Grayson Boese, Dawson Boese, Jae Wefers; and his great-grandchildren by marriage Cova, Maverick, Vera, Oliver, Kane and Bristin. He is also survived by several nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life service was held on May 24 at the First Congressional Church of Auburn and featured a remembrance by the Navy Honor Guard among presentations, music and speeches from family and friends.
Three of the grandchildren Laura Wong, Lindsey Nakano and Tom Nakano prepared a list of fun facts and information about their grandfather and read it during the celebration.
“He had a positive attitude and was realistic and pragmatic when it came to problem solving,” the grandchildren said. “His optimism, the way he took his declining health in stride, is an inspiration that we admire and hope to follow.”
The family consensus is that everyone enjoyed Quam’s knack for growing the most delicious produce they’ve ever tasted. Another statement from the grandchildren reads:
“He generously shared his regular bounty of fresh-picked mandarins, peaches, tomatoes and countless other fruits and vegetables of his labor, the rewards of his hard work, and dedication to the care of his land. He definitely loved his land. More than that, he loved working his land.”
Quam’s son-in-law and local real estate broker Ron Nakano, who added that the farm land is now being maintained by Quam’s widow, agreed, saying that nowhere else can you find juicier produce.
He said that he would often ask Quam if he ever wanted to go back to dentistry and that Quam would tell him he loved dentistry but that he was truly happy on the farm.
“He had the sweetest fruit, ya know,” said Nakano. “Ya know, he just had the sweetest peaches, right? I mean, you bite into a sweet peach on a hot summer day, that’s just like something you’ll always remember for the rest of your life. It’s the kind of peaches and the plums and the fruit, it’s the kind that you have to bend over and let it just drip onto the ground.”
Nakano said a conversation with Quam shortly before he died convinced him that Quam was happy and had accepted that it was his time to go.
“He goes, ‘Ya know, Ron, I thank God for my life and I’m really happy. I lived a good life and I thank God for it.’ That’s what he said,” Nakano explained. “He lived 96 years and he’s happy, ya know. He was content with passing away.”
The family’s program for their celebration of life ends with a quote from Quam, saying “Old gardeners never die, they just spade away,” which they say is the perfect way to commemorate Quam’s passion and personality.