Dental Hygienist, Cookie (Burggraf) Norton Retires


November 16, 2019

Ninety-seven years and 3 generations of Harris family dental care in Roseau will come to an end on November 21, 2019 with the retirement of Sally “Cookie” (Burggraf) Norton after 44 years as a Dental Hygienist.

In the early 1900s Morris, Minn dentist, Dr. John Wesley Harris, had three of his sons follow him into dentistry. Dr. Stanley Allen Harris, the oldest, and Dr. John Gray “Jack” Harris, the youngest, were longtime dentists in Perham, and Red Lake Falls, respectively. Dr. John’s middle son was Cookie’s mother, Nancy Jean (Harris) Burggraf’s father, Dr. Richard Van Sant “RV” Harris who began his dental career in Morris.

A traveling salesman suggested to RV that he move to Roseau, which he did in 1922. He set up his dental practice upstairs in what is now the Silver Dragon. His Dental Assistant and Bookkeeper was Bergetta Sorenson whom he married in 1928.

In 1951 RV built a state of the art dental office where the WILD 102 Radio Station is now located. In 1952 his son, Dr. Robert “Bob” Harris graduated from the University of Minnesota as a Dentist and returned to Roseau to work with his father. They served patients from Middle River to Baudette and from Canada to Grygla. Bob recalls that RV taught him many shortcuts and innovative ways to better serve their patients.

While at work in 1963, RV suffered a stroke and never recovered to continue his dental passion. He passed away in 1973 and Bob Harris continued the practice until 1982.

Cookie’s sister, Becky Lommen graduated from the University of Minnesota as a Dental Hygienist in 1972 and then worked in Roseau for a year. She is currently working as a Hygienist in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Cookie followed in her sister’s footsteps and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1976 and returned to Roseau in 1977 to begin her “hobby” as a Dental Hygienist. However, her younger brother, Charlie claims that her teeth cleaning career started much earlier when she used a bar of Ivory soap to wash out his mouth after he had used a swear word when she was in the 9th grade!

Cookie has seen many changes during her career. She started out with a Ritter dental chair and worked standing up for the first nine years. During those early years, she did not wear gloves, safety glasses or a mask and cleaned her instruments in boiling water. Later on, she obtained a reclining dental chair and was then able to sit while working with her patients. She eventually began to make use of gloves, protective eyewear, an ultrasonic piezo scaler, cavitron/prophy jet, Statim sterilizer, digital X-rays and charting.

In the beginning of her career, most patients had to be introduced to the role of a Dental Hygienist, because in those days dentists usually did any cleaning prior to completing their dental work. Convincing patients of this “new procedure” was not easy, especially convincing those who had never had their teeth cleaned before. However, Cookie found it a little easier to “sell” dental hygiene to her patients after many years of watching her salesman father, Bernie Burggraf in action at his Burggraf Menswear store.

An emphasis on dental health education, and in particular the detrimental role of plaque and tartar/calculus, resulted in great strides being made earlier on in Cookie’s career, once patients became aware that with regular cleaning they could keep their teeth and not have to go the route of dentures. Equally important, was the realization that a patient’s oral health is a window to their overall health.

Throughout her career, like her grandfather and uncle before her, Cookie has found the Roseau County people to be genuine, faithful and like family. She often says that it is a sin to call what she loves doing - work. Her motto started out as “Floss and Pray Everyday”, but with experience and wisdom her motto is now “Floss and Pray All Day”.

For more than three-quarters of her career, Cookie worked for Dr. Robert Larson. After the 2002 flood, Dr. Larson built a new Dental Office south of the Roseau Liquor Store when the old office, built during RV’s time, had to be demolished as a result of flood damage and fuel oil contamination. In 2017, after 42 years of dentistry, Dr. Larson sold his practice to Dr. Jon Hallie, a Roseau High School graduate and, like Dr. Larson, also a Graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry.

Cookie mentioned that she has had the pleasure of working on a patient who was a patient of her Great-Grandfather John, her Grandfather RV and her Uncle Bob - 4 generations of Harris dental care! Cookie is particularly proud to have been part of a family tradition of providing the Roseau area with dedicated, quality and caring dental care that was so ably continued by Dr. Larson and now by Dr. Hallie.

On November 21, 2019 Cookie will retire and Dental Hygienist, Kelsey Mattson (spouse of Pharmacist, Eric Mattson) will take over and continue to serve Cookie’s patients. Cookie will return briefly next spring to fill in for Kelsey when she is on maternity leave.

Cookie wants to thank all of her patients and coworkers for their support, faith, fun and love. As most of you know, she had photos of many of you on her operatory wall and prayed for all of you everyday - something she will continue to do.

Cookie is excited to join her husband, Fraser who recently retired from the USDA Farm Service Agency, as they travel to Texas to enjoy time with friends, surf fishing and warmer weather during the winter months, before returning each spring to Minnesota to be near their children and 10 grandchildren.


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