Frank O’Halloran 97, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho


Frank O’Halloran Jr. was born March 2, 1922, to Frank and Bessie Elizabeth (Merkle) O’Halloran in Cordell and died June 26, 2019, at the age of 97.

He decided he wanted to be a dentist at the age of 11, after considering medicine, but questioned whether he was dedicated enough to become a physician. After graduating at the head of his class from Cordell High School, he enrolled in the University of Oklahoma at Norman.

His education was interrupted when his Army National Guard unit became the first in the nation to be called up for WWII. Just before his unit was sent overseas he took a few days leave to visit Lake Placid, NY., to try out skiing, and he loved it! He survived the invasion of Sicily, but six days later he fell from the back of an ambulance and fractured his pelvis. The left side of his pelvis healed one inch higher than the right side, which qualified him for disability rehabilitation. For the rest of his life he had one inch added to the sole of his left shoe, rollerblade, or ski boot.

His service disability allowed him to finish his undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin and to enroll in the Dental School at Northwestern University near Chicago. He again graduated at the top of his class, married Francis Blatchford Pettit, and moved to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to start a dental practice in 1948.

He opened his office on the third floor of the Elder Building, with a view over the lake, and stayed there for the next 46 years. After he sold his practice he moved to a new location and continued practicing for another nine years, for a total of 55 years. During the 1970’s Frank served on the State Board of Dental Examiners. In 1998 the Idaho Dental Society honored him as the first dentist in Idaho to practice over 50 years.

When Dr. O’Halloran started his practice there were only five dentists in Coeur d’Alene, and the preventive dentistry he learned in school was unheard of. Spokane dentists offered free exams, typically followed by extraction of all teeth to be replaced by dentures. Frank offered free exams for the first four years, until he decided he couldn’t afford it. He refused to extract a tooth without an x-ray first, even though the x-ray cost an extra dollar. He taught every patient how to brush and floss and must have provided thousands of toothbrushes and miles of floss over the years. He was thrilled that preventive dentistry is now the standard.

Frank took full advantage of the year-round recreational activities available in North Idaho. He skied every weekend all winter until he turned 40 and broke a ski, when he decided he and his team couldn’t afford to be out of work should he break a leg. He resumed skiing at 60 and enjoyed skiing for another 30 years.

Every day during the summer he walked from work to the beach to join the rest of the family for a late afternoon swim. Most days he walked to work year round. Frank believed in the benefits of exercise for both mental and physical health, so he started jogging at the age of 40, took up canoeing, kayaking, and cycling as he approached 50, and added in-line skating at 60. He was an active member of the Spokane Canoe Club where he taught hundreds to do Eskimo rolls in their kayaks.

Frank married Sheila “Thu” (pronounced “Too”) Lamb on Christmas Eve of 1980. Thu soon became a dental assistant as well as his life partner. Frank and Thu loved dancing.

Frank is survived by children Beth Merkle O’Halloran Bown (Thomas) of Portland, Ore., James Pettit O’Halloran (Lucinda) of Seattle, Wash., Joyce O’Halloran of West Linn, Ore., and Bruce O’Halloran of Auckland, New Zealand; as well as Bruce’s son, Kieran Levin (Elizabeth); and great-grandchildren, Amy and Adam of Redwood City, Calif. Stepchildren are Sylva Lamb (Joe), James Lamb, Richard Lamb, and Robert Lamb. Frank’s parents and brothers, Merkle and Norman, predeceased him.

In lieu of a memorial service, Frank asked that everyone appreciate and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds us, and that any memorials support the North Idaho Community.

Local Cordell residents Kent P. O’Halloran and Dr. Kevin F. O’Halloran, DDS are nephews to Frank O’Halloran. Brothers Frank, Merkle, and Norman all graduated from Cordell High School. Their parents Frank & Bess “Merkle” O’Halloran were married in Norman in 1920 and established a lifelong home in Cordell where Frank was the agent for the Frisco Railroad for over 50 years (came as apprentice at age 16 to Bessie Depot in 1906). Bess “Merkle” O’Halloran graduated from O.U. in 1913 where her two older brothers graduated and played on the first O.U. football team (called the “Merkle boys”) about a decade earlier. Merkle and Jean O’Halloran (both OSU graduates) were lifelong residents of Cordell after their marriage in 1950. Grandfather Frank and father Merkle served a total of nearly 50 combined years on the Cordell City Council including mayor.