After 40 years, Sequim dentist Randy Tierney calls it a career

Steim Family Dentistry

What: Family dentistry practice

Where: 556 Eureka Way

Contact: 360-683-7168

New year, new adventures for a longtime Sequim dentist.

Make that, former dentist.

After a four-decade career in helping people get and keep their teeth healthy and making community connections — the last 27 of those years in Sequim — E. Randy Tierney has called it a career.

Tierney sold his practice to Dr. Nate Steim in late 2020, and says he’ll miss it.

“It’s the people, the patients that you see,” Tierney said. “A lot of them are good people. You watch their families grow up. When you start seeing the kids’ kids, you know you’ve been round for while.”

Tierney grew up in Lewiston and attended the University of Idaho before matriculating at the Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. and graduating in 1978; he was the first of his family to earn a degree, he said.

How did he get into dentistry?

“No idea,” Tierney said recently. He was pre-med for a while and eyed chemistry and zoology before happening upon the teeth trade.

“Somehow I thought I’d get more free time,” he said, laughing. “It didn’t pan out.”

He wound up in Anchorage, Alaska, during a three-year stint in the U.S. Army, before returning to the contiguous states in about 1992 to Port Townsend to help fill in for a dentist on leave. He never returned north, and instead went west to Sequim about a year later.

“I just decided to set up here from scratch, which you can’t do anymore,” Tierney said.

He said he connected with and often compared notes over the years with Richard Meyers, a longtime local dentist who went missing and presumed lost at sea during a September 2004 fishing trip.

Tierney said he enjoyed most parts of the job — the hiring and firing personnel side was not one of them — and in recent months said he figured he was ready to call it a career. The outbreak of COVID that forced even more equipment to wear was a factor too, Tierney said.

His last official day on the job was Dec. 2.

“With my practice, at this stage, I’d have to invest in more equipment,” he said. “I think it’s about time for me.”

New dentists, familiar faces

The change in ownership is a homecoming of sorts for Steim (pronounced “steam”) and his wife Lauren, who were both born and raised in the Sequim/ Port Angeles area.

Lauren is also a dentist and will be joining the practice in the near future, and rechristen the practice Steim Family Dentistry.

Nate Steim, who attended Washington State University for undergraduate school work and then University of Detroit School of Dentistry, said he enjoys helping people feel comfortable in a dental chair, whether the patient enjoys coming to the dentist or they generally try to avoid it.

“I have my own fears when I am the patient, so I understand that it takes trust and compassion to overcome any anxiety associated with a dental visit,” he said. “I was trained to treat the mouth as a window to your overall health and this connection drives me to improve a person’s well-being.”

Steim was interested in coming back to the community he was raised and through Dr. Kirsti Turella, a mutual friend, connected with Tierney about the sale.

“Dr. Tierney and I have been meeting for over a year to discuss treatment philosophy to determine if this was a good fit for a smooth transition,” Steim said.

“We are excited to give the practice our own personal touch, which will start with our new name Steim Family Dentistry. Our goal is to provide comprehensive dentistry for the entire family.”

The Steims have a 6-month old daughter Clara, and two friendly bulldogs, Bentley and Odin. In his free time, Steim enjoys barbecuing, golfing and exploring the Pacific Northwest with his family.

Art exploration

And for Dr. Tierney, what now? Art, of course. Tierney’s patients can likely testify to the now former dentist’s talents with the paint brush, as his Chinese-influenced artwork adorned the practice’s law for some years. Now he will have much more time to devote to the craft.

Tierney said his Far East inspiration came from a family connection: his grandmother was the manager of the Majestic Café restaurant in Lewiston, Idaho, owned by a Cantonese family. His mother was a waitress and met his father there, and as a small boy, he often spent time at the eatery.

About 10 years ago he took some private lessons from Roxanne Grinstad, and his interest in the art form blossomed.

“I had the background (and) kind of fell into it real easily,” he said.

Apart from that, Tierney — who turns 68 in March — is looking at doing some traveling, getting back into hiking and cycling.

Generosity says a mouthful

Sequim resident Tim Wheeler recounts this short story about retiring dentist Randy Tierney:

When my wife, Joyce, and I returned to Sequim 14 years ago, we had to find a good dentist. We found Dr. E. Randy Tierney, a dentist of great skill who knows how to rescue anyone suffering a toothache.

I discovered his artistic genius while sitting in his waiting room admiring the Asian-style watercolors on the walls. Most of them were by Tierney himself, so beautiful I bought a book, “E. Randy Tierney: Paintings,” a lovely collection of his paintings.

In recent years, the porcelain on three of my crowns broke. I told Dr. Tierney I want all three replaced. Even though COVID-19 is raging, he himself and his staff dressed in hazmats, he replaced two of the crowns. Then came the third. He asked me, “What kind of material do you want for the crown?” I replied “Whatever is strongest. I don’t want it to break again.”

Last week the new crown had arrived. Dr. Tierney cemented it in my mouth. “Close. Let’s check the bite. O.K.?

“Perfect,” I replied.

Then he told me quietly, “I’m going to retire. I’m been doing this work for 45 years. Time to let somebody younger take over.”

“We will miss you,” I said. “I know what you will do now. A second career. Artist.”

He laughed. We said goodbye.

Crowns cost $1,200. His receptionist shook her head. “You’re all good, Tim. ”

Thank you, Dr. Tierney, a gold nugget in my mouth. I will never die poor.