Dental technician, 82, still making false teeth after 58 years

BILL MARDIS I CJ

Max Lay, dental technician at Basil Dental Laboratory in Somerset, finishes a set of dentures. Lay, 82, has been a dental technician for 58 years. "I'm going to work until I kick the bucket," he says.

"I'm going to work until I kick the bucket. I hope I die sitting here in this chair."

Max Lay is 82 years old. He has been a dental technician for 58 years and still works four or five hours a day at Basil Dental Laboratory. "Sometimes I work all day if I need to," he assured.

False teeth wearers don't realize their dentures are probably made at Basil Dental Laboratory, 600 North Main Street in Somerset. That's near the top of Harvey's Hill just north of the intersection with Crab Orchard Road.

Mike Walker, a certified dental technician since 1978, owns Basil Dental Laboratory. The name Basil is from Paul Basil, recruited by local dentists in 1946 to come to Somerset and start a dental laboratory. He is now deceased.

"Paul hired Ed Lay, my father-in-law," said Walker. "Ed brought in Max, his brother. Ed and Max in 1972 bought the laboratory from Paul Basil and Mr. Basil retired. I bought it from Ed and Max in 1994," Walker related.

Max Lay never missed a beat. He stayed with the business, showing up for work every day.

"I just finish teeth now, said Max. "I used to make the whole thing," he added, looking up from his desk on which lay several sets of dentures. Max, a dedicated technician, continued to work as he talked.

Basil Dental Laboratory is a busy place. "We work for 60 dentists in a wide area from Tennessee and as far away as Alaska," said Walker. "We work strictly for dentists ... by state law we are not allowed to work directly with patients." Basil Dental Laboratory has a total of five employees, including Walker.

Walker and Lay both are locals. "I was born and raised down there by the Old Ferguson Shops," said Lay. Walker is a native of Somerset.

Max, whose wife died nine years ago, doesn't know how to spell retire. He lives in Hillandale and enjoys watching birds and animals in his backyard. "I used to play golf religiously every day after I got off from work ... I don't now because of this bad knee," he said, rubbing the hurting leg with his hands. I was a member of Eagle's Nest for 25 years."

You could call Max a workaholic. "I can't imaging retiring ... sitting home looking out the window," said Max. He smiled at a reporter and repeated: "I'm going to work until I kick the bucket." His wife died nine years ago.

Basil Dental Laboratory has been at its current location for the past 12 years. "We needed more space ... we bought this (a former private residence) and remodeled it," Walker said.

Dentures are artificial teeth and gums formed to your mouth and created by dental technicians to replace lost or removed natural teeth. Dentures can either be full or partial, replacing all teeth on either the top or bottom gum line, or just a few that are missing. Regardless of what kind of dentures a person may need. Laboratories like Basil will custom design the dentures to fit your mouth, and visually match existing teeth.