Brownstown dentist retires after 42 years of service



Nearly two months ago, a Jackson County dentist felt it was the right time to hang up his drill after a dental career that spanned more than four decades.

Dr. Max Middendorf of Brownstown began his career as a dentist in the 1970s in Columbus and served patients from various communities in southern Indiana.

“I had several patients from Bartholomew County, Columbus and Seymour,” he said. “Even as far as Madison, North Vernon, Salem and Bedford, so there was a pretty good swath of patients.”

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Then he learned there was an opening for a health core dentist in Brownstown, so he applied for the position.

“They let me rent the building, where my office was, 219 E. Cross St., for $1 the first year just to see how I liked it,” he said. “I liked Brownstown, and so here we are 42 years later. I opened my dental practice Feb. 2, 1976, on Groundhog Day.”

On Feb. 1, 1991, Max reported for active duty for the first time. He spent the next 23 years serving with the Air Force Reserves and Indiana Air Guard. He was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“I contacted several local dentists to help with some of my patients during my assignment in Ohio,” Max said. “Wright-Patterson was one of the leading medical centers to accept incoming wounded.”

Originally, his orders were for six months with a two-year option, but his assignment ended after about five months, and he was happy to return home to his wife, Eve, and their children, Heather, Heidi and Bill.

Max grew up with his brother and sisters on the family farm in Jonesville, just north of Seymour.

His parents, Harold and Marcia Middendorf, were married just years before his mom passed away in 1985, then his father passed away about 11 years later.

“Dad was born and raised in Jonesville, and Mom was from Cortland,” Max said. “There were six of us kids, and I was the oldest, with four sisters and a brother.”

Max said they are a pretty close family and get together whenever they can, usually around holidays, and that was one reason he wanted to return to Jackson County to practice dentistry.

“Max’s aunt, Louise, lived in Brownstown, and they (his family) used to visit there frequently while he was growing up,” Eve said. “So moving here in May of 1975 was almost like a homecoming.”

After high school, Max went to Indiana University to study chemistry. That’s also where he met Eve.

“Max’s sister, Linda, and I were good friends in high school, and then I went to IU two years after he’d started,” Eve said. “We commuted some together, then we were friends and dated along many years before we actually got married.”

Before he began his dentistry studies, he enlisted in the Air Force.

“It was a good deal that I went through pilot training with the Air Force before I went to dental school,” Max said. “After I finished pilot training, I flew part time while I was going to dental school so I could have an income.”

He was initially commissioned as a lieutenant, and then worked his way up to flight commander.

Max and Eve were married in 1969 before he went to dental school.

During this time, Eve was bringing home an income, too, and Max said she has provided him with a lot of support throughout the years.

Eve received her degree in political science. and she also had minors in economics and history. Plus, she acquired a teaching certification.

“My first job was a position as a caseworker at the Bartholomew County Welfare Department, and I worked in child welfare and just everything,” Eve said. “Then when Columbus had an urban renewal project, I was the residential relocation officer for that project, and then afterwards, I went back to being a caseworker at the welfare office.”

At the the time, the Middendorfs were still living in Columbus and got married at St. John’s Lutheran Church at White Creek. Eve’s family had been members from the inception of the church about 150 years ago.

“Max and I started a family shortly after his graduation from dental school in 1975,” Eve said.

Besides being a dentist and a pilot, Max also has worked as a teacher and a chemist. He also ran for the Indiana General Assembly.

When Max worked at Amoco in Seymour, he made starter cartridges, which ended up being some of the parts for the planes he flew.

“They closed the propellant division down and was going to send me up to the lab in Chicago, so I decided to go to dental school,” Max said. “I chose dental school because it was four years shorter than medical school and I was 31 years old.”

Max said he wanted a profession that would last him a long time. His family dentist, Dr. Robert Turner, played an important role in his decision to go into dentistry.

Dr. Turner’s idea was “to do no wrong and be fair to the patients,” Max said.

“Sometimes even now, I’ll get stopped by some of Max’s past patients who tell me the dental work he performed on them years ago is still holding strong,” Eve said. “He’s done really good long-term work, just like Dr. Turner did.”

In 1983, Max opened a part-time dental office in Austin and took care of patients there for 32 years. He split his practice going to Austin two days a week and remaining at the Brownstown office the other three.

“How it’s ending up is the Jackson County Courthouse is expanding,” Max said. “The buildings nearby, including my practice, were in the way, so I agreed to sell.”

The Jackson County Judicial Center is expected to be completed and opened this fall.

Max said he was ready to retire, though, and does not regret his decision. Although retirement is not an easy thing to do, he is used to keeping busy.

“There is a momentum that keeps people going, and I’ll miss the interaction with the patients,” Max said. “I don’t know where the time has gone.”

Now, he will have more time to spend with family and enjoy his hobbies. He likes to read and is a Civil War and history buff.

“All of my patients liked me, I think, but it’s hard to say sometimes. At least we helped a lot of our patients to be free of their pain,” Max said. “It’s been a wonderful thing to be able to be here in Brownstown for 42 years and practice dentistry.”

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Name: Max Middendorf

Parents: Harold and Marcia Mellencamp Middendorf

Siblings: Linda Barkes, Carol Middendorf, Rebecca Fahy, Shirley Bush and Marshall Middendorf

Spouse: Married Eva Hoffman of Walesboro on June 21, 1969

Children: Heather Voss, employed at the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s Ofice, Heidi Bagwell, employed as a doctor near Greenwood, and Bill Middendorf, an engineer in Sidney, Ohio

Education: Attended St. Paul’s Lutheran School at Jonesville and graduated from Columbus Senior High School in 1958; Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in chemistry from Indiana University; Master of Science in education from Indiana State University; Doctor of dental surgery from Indiana University, Indianapolis, 1971 to 1975

Occupations and qualifications:Air Force Reserves and Indiana Air Guard, Hulman Field; science teacher at North Central High School, Indianapolis in 1965-66; chemist at Amoco Chemicals in Seymour, from 1967 to 1971; worked at Great Lakes Chemical in Lafayette; Air Force pilot for 12 years, then an Air Force dentist; commander of Camp Jackson American Legion Post 112; director of Brownstown Chamber of Commerce; member of the House of Delegates, Governing Body for the Indiana State Dental Association; precinct committeeman in Columbus; Republican chairman in Bartholomew County for 12 years; Republican chairman for the Ninth District for eight years; Delegate to GOP State Convention in 1972, 1974, 1976 and 1978; practiced dentistry in Brownstown from 1976 to 2018 and in Austin from 1983 to 2015

Honors: He received the Sagamore of the Wabash twice (one from Gov. Otis Bowen and the other from Gov. Robert Orr). It is the highest honor the governor of Indiana bestows and is a personal tribute usually given to those who have rendered a distinguished service to the state or to the governor.


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