The Flying Frontier Orthodontist, Dr. John Alfred Bluher, or “Doc Bluher” as many fondly called him, passed away suddenly Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, in Cody, Wyoming. He was 84.
John was born into a humble family on May 31, 1934, in Seattle, Washington, to Chester and Pauline (Stall) Bluher. He grew up with his sister, Deloris (Bluher) Babcock, and brothers Donald and Ronald in Fall City, Washington.
During his high school years John played saxophone in the Mount Si High School band, played quarterback on the football team and played shortstop and catcher on the baseball team. In 1952 John led the football team to victory in the league championship by making the winning touchdown.
Upon completion of high school in 1952 he was awarded a full music scholarship to Central Washington University. His freshman-year roommate was enrolled in pre-dentistry and John soon realized his aptitudes and interests were more aligned with dentistry than music. Finances were tight, so to fulfill his dreams he was creative and industrious and did just about anything to earn an extra dollar. One of his greatest joys was earning money by forming his own dance band, The Esquires. The band was well known and played around the Ellensburg area for college and community dances.
In 1954 John met and married Carol Quigley, of Ellensburg, Washington, and the couple moved to Seattle where he was accepted into the University of Washington Dental School. To put himself through dental school he drove sightseeing buses through Seattle for Greyline and every Saturday night he and Carol drove their Model A to Angel Lake, Washington, where he would play his tenor saxophone and clarinet in Jerry Anderson’s Dance Band. His ambitiousness and ingenuity paid the way.
In his senior year of dental school, John enlisted in the Air Force Senior Dental Program and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Following graduation in 1958, he was promoted to First Lieutenant and then to Captain, serving five years as a young dentist in the United States Air Force at Travis AF Base, California.
Pursuing his dream of becoming an orthodontist, John met with Cody community leaders who extended a loan opportunity for his upcoming orthodontic education at Northwestern University in Chicago. He passed the Wyoming State Dental Boards by conducting dental procedures on prisoners at the State Penitentiary in Rawlins, accepted the loan offer for orthodontic school and moved his family to Chicago with the promise to return to Cody and establish a practice. While in orthodontic school, he was awarded the much-coveted Milo Hellman Award and received international recognition for outstanding original research on the Templar Mandibular Joint (TMJ).
Upon graduation from Northwestern University in 1964, John, Carol and their three young children, John, Lisa and Gina moved to Cody and established their lifelong home and a thriving practice. The loan was repaid in full in three years … and the rest is history. The flying frontier orthodontist’s practice took off and he enjoyed over 40 years of serving the Big Horn Basin and southern Montana “flying many miles for perfect smiles.”
John was a pioneer in orthodontics and in developing satellite offices. It was unorthodox to establish branch offices during this period, but Doc was never a man to conform to the establishment, shy away from a challenge or deny his dreams. The practice flourished by hard work, word-of-mouth and ingenuity as he opened offices in Cody, Powell, Worland, Greybull, Thermopolis, Lovell and Billings. With an interest in aviation and a need to easily access his offices scattered across Wyoming and Montana, Doc became a pilot and integrated his love for flying into his orthodontic business. He logged over 5,000 hours of flying time, and his favorite plane to fly was his Cessna 340.
As part of John’s contributions to the Cody community, he was a youth leader for Trinity Lutheran Church, a Boy Scout leader, a Rotarian, a Lion and a member of the Olive Glenn Golf and Country Club. One of the greatest joys John reminisced about was leading his Boy Scout troop, along with Jerry Lanchberry and Al Simpson, on an epic 50-mile hike from Pahaska Tepee to Lee City in Sunlight Basin. It took 10 days and changed the lives of all who took the challenge. One of the greatest aspects of this journey for John was sharing it with his son. He often fondly referred to the trip as ‘The Lord of the Flies.’
In 1987, John married Grace Aguilar and they enjoyed 31 wonderful years together. John and Grace worked together and played together, they were best friends. On any weekend of the year you could find them enjoying the outdoors boating, fishing, hunting, on pack-trips, parasailing, snowmobiling, or skiing. In their retirement years they enjoyed traveling and spent many seasons on the Oregon and South Texas coasts. Doc loved coastal areas due to his history rooted in the Pacific Northwest and never stopped fishing for salmon or catching Dungeness crab.
While in Cody, if Doc wasn’t tending to his farm, fixing his tractors or tinkering in his garage, he was sitting on his porch having a toddy watching the mountains grow.
Doc was an ambitious, kind, generous and humble man who was committed to those he loved. This love encompassed his entire family and his many friends.
John Bluher is survived by his wife Grace Bluher of Cody; mother-in-law Burna Aguilar, Denver, Colorado; brothers Don (Karen) Bluher, Fall City, Washington, and Ron Bluher, Olympia, Washington; brothers-in-law John (Jackie) Aguilar, Grand Junction, Colorado, and Paul (Vicki) Aguilar, Loveland, Colorado; son John (Taylor) Bluher, Edwards, Colorado, and Coto de Caza, California, daughters Lisa (Rick) Anderson, Sequim, Washington, and Gina (Scott) Morrison, Cody; grandchildren Matt (Katie) Bluher, Park City, Utah, Laura Bluher, Washington DC, Thomas Bluher, Denver, Colorado, John Morrison, Bozeman, Montana, Katherine Morrison, Bozeman, Montana, Susan Anderson, Sequim, Washington, and Kennedy Armstrong, Edwards, Colorado, and Coto de Caza, California; great grandson, Paxton Bluher, Park City, Utah, and mother of his children, Carol Armstrong, Cody.
John was preceded in death by his parents Chester and Pauline Bluher and his sister Deloris (Bluher) Babcock.
A celebration of Doc’s life will be Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, at 11:00 a.m. at Ballard Funeral Home in Cody, Wyoming, followed by interment at Riverside Cemetery and a reception in the Governor’s Room at the Irma Hotel.
In lieu of flowers please make donations to the Park County Animal Shelter in honor of Doc’s boys Beizo and Bruno.