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Adrian dentist of four decades leaves patients in new caring hands

ADRIAN -- At the risk of perpetuating a stereotype, it's not difficult to discern that Dr. Carl Ole Hallum is of Norwegian descent. First, there's his name. Then there's his gently understated manner and dry sense of humor. Finally, his modesty m...

ADRIAN - At the risk of perpetuating a stereotype, it’s not difficult to discern that Dr. Carl Ole Hallum is of Norwegian descent.

First, there’s his name. Then there’s his gently understated manner and dry sense of humor. Finally, his modesty more than betrays his Scandinavian heritage.

But this guy fits in no box: Hallum is an intelligent man of accomplishment, with multiple interests and achievements to his credit that complement his down-to-earth approach to life and non-judgmental attitude.

“I grew up about six and a half miles north of Heron Lake on a farm by the red, white and blue schoolhouse,” said Hallum, a 1969 Heron Lake High School graduate and the son of the late Carroll and Martha Hallum. “That schoolhouse was a landmark at the time.”

Hallum’s roots in the area are deep; his paternal grandfather ran a series of general stores in the Walnut Grove and Lake Benton areas, and his maternal grandfather arrived in Jackson County in the 1880s.

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“He was about 12 years old when his family moved here from Story City, Iowa,” said Hallum of his ancestor. “They got off the train at the Heron Lake depot and took a horse and sleigh cross-country to a relative’s house - and there was nothing but snow, no fences or trees in sight.”

During Hallum’s high school years in the southwest Minnesota landscape more familiar to contemporary residents, he did a little bit of everything - track, football, basketball, class plays and more.
“I tried my hand at being an annual photographer for a year or two,” said Hallum. “That was kind of interesting.”

After graduating, Hallum headed east to attend what was then Mankato State College. He decided to pursue a biology degree and thought he’d like to work in a laboratory but grew concerned about the lack of jobs for science majors outside of education.

“We had a friend and neighbor, Dr. Bruce Larson, who suggested, ‘Gosh, why not apply to dental school?’ so I did and he mentored me through it,” explained Hallum.

During his college years, Hallum met the “older woman” who would later become his wife.

“When I first met Anita, I was a freshman and she was a senior,” he shared. “I said hi to her and she looked at me like, ‘Who the heck are you?’” chuckled Hallum.

“A friend was with her, and it’s kind of humorous because she doesn’t remember it.”

But the two had a few classes together and became acquainted.

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“Then she disappeared for awhile,” he said.

While Hallum continued his undergraduate studies, the future Anita Hallum, who originally hailed from Pipestone, moved to the Twin Cities and furthered her studies to become a medical technologist.

“Then one day I was sitting in the hallway at college, frustrated about a medical chemistry problem that wasn’t working for me, and there was Anita,” said Hallum. “She walked back into my life again.”

The couple married on Dec. 26, 1972, when Hallum was on the cusp of being a college graduate.

“I wasn’t even accepted to dental school yet, but she said she could support me; I was a kept man,” he joked. “Really, she was pretty uncertain about the whole thing, but once my acceptance letters came through, it was OK.”

The Hallums lived on Larpenteur Avenue in St. Paul near the University of Minnesota’s veterinary campus while Hallum attended the U’s dental school from 1973-77.

“We were pretty busy in those days,” recalled Hallum, mentioning his dental studies, Anita’s work, his weekend job in a dental laboratory and the arrival of their first son, Jeremy.

“On Saturdays, she came home from work, honked the horn, made a U-turn, hopped out, and I’d jump in to take the car and go to work,” he laughed.  

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As Hallum completed his dentistry degree, the young family considered where to establish their home.

“We both felt like we missed out on the seasons, living in the Cities,” he explained. “It would be spring and the corn was just in, then the next time we’d be home it was already up and tasseled.

“It was surprising how you’d miss that, and we wanted to get back ‘home.’”

That desire led to the Hallums choosing Adrian, where longtime dentist Dr. C.J. Weibeler was seeking a replacement as he eyed retirement.

“Adrian is fairly close to Sioux Falls, and it was between my folks’ place in Heron Lake and hers in Pipestone,” mused Hallum. “It’s a great town, a beautiful place to raise a family, with a good school system - how could we beat that?”

Hence, the Hallums bought Dr. Weibeler’s dental equipment and existing office building - a former gas station he’d converted into a dental office - and relocated to Adrian, officially setting up his practice in July 1977.

“Where in the world did the time go?” queried Hallum, who walked out the door himself on Jan. 5, 2018. He turned over his practice to Dr. Michelle Skaff, a graduate of Creighton University.

“Yes, I’ve passed on the floss,” laughed Hallum. “She’s bought a house in Adrian, and she’s doing a good job from what I’ve been hearing. Dr. Skaff is a caring person.

“The staff all remained, the phone number has stayed the same, but I’ve stepped out.”

By all accounts, including his own, Hallum was never a “scary” dentist but a skilled, caring one who tried to help his patients help themselves.

“I never told patients, ‘You’ve gotta do this,’ but if I noticed something different going on, I would ask what has changed - what did you start doing, or stop doing, or what do you need to change,” he related.

“I didn’t shake my finger at people too much,” Hallum assured. “If someone was willing to do something to improve their life, I was there to help. I was like a waiter at a restaurant; this is your menu, tell me what you want and I’ll do my best to get it for you, but it was a destination we needed to reach together.”

While Hallum always enjoyed his dentistry practice, he admits that, especially in the early years when he was building his patient base and raising sons Jeremy and Ryan with Anita, he felt a little boxed in.

“There was more stress at the start, oh my goodness,” recalled Hallum. “Our funds were short as we made payments on the business, there was a lot of work, and I felt pretty confined at first.”

Serendipity played a part in giving Hallum wings outside of his profession.

“One day, Anita and I were driving by the airport in Sioux Falls and I told her, ‘I’d like to do that,’ and she said, ‘So would I,’” said Hallum.

“Anita never did take it up, but I took flying lessons in Sheldon, Iowa, and got my pilot’s license.”

Decades of flying followed, with Hallum later earning his instrument rating and eventually his commercial pilot licensure. He’s also a certified flight instructor and a glider instructor, and he’s been a member of the Worthington Civil Air Patrol since the mid- to late-1980s.

“I never had that confined feeling after flying, and flying became a way for me to shake loose and extend the weekends,” Hallum shared.

“You can go a long way on a weekend when you’re flying.”

Hallum participated in search and rescue exercises across the entire state of Minnesota and has held official posts with both the local CAP and the Minnesota CAP organization.

Since the 1990s, Hallum has annually helped with the Flight Academy, calling himself “lucky to be involved with that.”

“It’s given me a lot of enjoyable times, and once in awhile I still hear from graduates who are doing some pretty interesting things,” said Hallum.

Hallum keeps his Kennedy-era Cherokee Piper at the Worthington Municipal Airport, where he says Cameron Johnson “does a great job of maintaining it.”

Hallum’s list of retirement goals is simple but appealing: “I hope to do a little more fishing, a little more golfing and a little more flying,” he said.

He and Anita will also be freer to visit their sons’ families (which include two grandsons and “grandcats”) in Michigan and suburban Chicago, and he also hopes to read more fiction, Westerns and thrillers once again.

Hallum’s 40-plus decades as a dentist were definitely rewarding.

“You get a sense of accomplishment from knowing you’ve helped make people’s lives a little better, even if it’s not something that’s easily measured,” he said in his understated way.

“But it will be nice to take some time to appreciate the gifts each day brings,” Hallum continued. “Each day is a brand-new page to write on.”

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