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Helmut Schmidt, Published November 26 2010

Dentist’s gift puts smile back on woman’s face

Six years ago, Carolyn Bock lost her son, Alex. Last year, she lost her job.

Then, as life could have spiraled out of control, she got her smile and her hope back – thanks to the kindness of a stranger.

Alex, 14, died July 4, 2004, collapsing in front of her in Boise, Idaho.

The loss was devastating, she said, but Bock knew she had to carry on for his older sister, Melissa.

Fast-forward to 2009, and Bock was working in Bentonville, Ark., at Wal-Mart’s corporate offices. Bock didn’t think of layoffs, even in the bad economy.

“After all, I LOST A CHILD. I was insulated from anything bad EVER happening to me again, right? Wrong!” she said.

After her layoff, Bock moved in with her sister and brother-in-law, Ann and Paul Bramel of Fargo.

In September 2009, she was set for an interview with Best Buy in Minneapolis when a tooth broke.

Her sister’s dentist, Todd Debates of Fargo, did a temporary fix.

But the pain roared back during Bock’s trip to the Cities, and when her interview was done, she raced back to Fargo for help.

When Debates arrived at his office, he introduced his wife and children, and Bock burst into tears.

“I am crying so hard that I cannot talk,” she said. His family “just reminded me of Alex.”

Debates got her a partial denture. And he said he’d accept what Bock’s Cobra insurance paid – even if it was nothing.

Bock is still unemployed, but Debates’ kindness has given her strength and hope this Thanksgiving.

“Dr. Debates knew nothing about Alex. He only knew that I was going through a hard time and needed a helping hand,” Bock said.

“I don’t think I cried that day because my tooth hurt; I cried because someone who was not family or friend treated me kindly in what had become for me, at times, an otherwise cold and very unkind world,” she said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583


About this series

A few weeks back, The Forum asked readers who had experienced acts of compassion and generosity to share their stories.

Their answers were powerful. So powerful, in fact, we decided we couldn’t choose just one to feature in our news pages.

So we’re giving you five.

We kicked off our “Gifts of Generosity” series on the most appropriate day of the year, Thanksgiving. The tales, which conclude Monday, are a reminder during this holiday season that while trouble and sadness abound in the world, help is sometimes just around the corner.

And it can be in the form of someone you’ve never met.