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Continued: Charles Schachtele, a pioneer in tooth-decay research

  • Article by: BEN COHEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 18, 2008 - 9:39 PM

Charles Schachtele of Falcon Heights, a microbiologist with the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, was an innovative researcher and teacher of dental students.

Schachtele, who once headed the university's Dental Research Institute, died unexpectedly of an apparent heart attack on June 11 in Peoria, Ariz., where he was remodeling a vacation home.

He was 66.

Schachtele was an innovator in testing the sterility of dental instruments.

When behind the microscope, he was "really a pioneer" in the study of how bacteria sticks to teeth, said his colleague, Dr. Mark Herzberg, professor of dentistry at the University of Minnesota.

"He was one of very few people in the mid- to late 1970s who had the skills and foresight to study this" and help us to understand why germs cause tooth decay, said Herzberg.

Schachtele graduated from Minneapolis' Southwest High School in 1959. He played varsity baseball there and at Macalester College in St. Paul, where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry in 1963.

He did graduate work at the University of Minnesota, getting his Ph.D. in microbiology in 1968, when he joined the dental college's faculty.

From 1987 to 2002, he served as director of the university's Dental Research Institute and later as the dental college's associate dean for research.

A former student, Dr. Mike McDermott, a Brainerd orthodontist, said, "He taught people that the scientific fundamentals have real-world implications and applications."

"He had one of the best laughs of anybody," said McDermott. "He loved life, and anytime you were around him, he made you appreciate life."

Dr. Les Martens, of St. Paul, a dentist and retired University of Minnesota School of Dentistry professor, said he appreciated Schachtele for his friendship as much as for his work.

Schachtele, Martens and others owned thoroughbred race horses, including Northbound Pride, a Canterbury Park Hall of Fame horse.

"He had a wry sense of humor," said Martens, and he was gracious.

In horse racing and at work, he would say: "'OK, you are in charge,' but he was really the one that was in charge," said Martens.

He received numerous awards, including the Basic Research in Oral Science Award from the International Association of Dental Research.

About 25 years ago, he was on the talk show circuit, including the Merv Griffin Show, discussing his findings about various foods and tooth decay.

"He would light up anyplace he went," said his brother, Alan, of Shoreview.

He also is survived by his wife, Therese, of Falcon Heights; son, Jon of Farmington; mother, Agnes (Pat) of Peoria, Ariz.; sisters, Patricia Miller of Richfield and Frances Dorhout of San Jose, Calif., and three grandchildren.

A service will be held at 4 p.m. today at the McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak St. SE., Minneapolis.

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