When Eugene Loya moved his dentistry practice from northeast Minneapolis to Nisswa, many of his loyal patients followed him Up North for checkups.
Besides being one of the few dentists in the area, Loya was known as a reserve guard on the 1954 Brainerd High School championship basketball team. He never had a hygienist, doing all the cleaning and other dental duties himself. His daughter ran the front desk.
"He was with his patients from beginning to end," said his son Brad, of Rosemount.
Loya, 83, of Lake Shore, died Sept. 3 of COVID-19 at Good Samaritan Society–Bethany nursing home in Brainerd.
Loya was raised in Brainerd and graduated from the University of Minnesota dental school. To help pay for tuition, he mopped floors at a hospital. Even before he started his practice in Minneapolis, he continued to clean the hospital.
After graduation, he joined the Air Force and was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base in Del City, Okla., during the Vietnam War and refined his dentistry skills. He then opened his business on Johnson Street in northeast Minneapolis, where he practiced for nearly two decades.
He moved to Nisswa and bought a house on Gull Lake. People used to stop his son at the library and ask if he was related to Eugene because he looked like him.
Loya was an avid fisherman, a passion he passed on to his children. Once he decided to take up golf, "golfing was on and fishing was done," his son said. His father was a pretty good golfer and had two holes-in-one.
"I was pretty athletic in college, but he was hard to beat," his son said.
Loya was a longtime member at Madden's on Gull Lake. He also attended Brainerd High School games and followed all the local professional sports teams.
He had Parkinson's disease before he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He wheeled around the nursing home, talking with patients, his son said.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Patricia, who died last year. In addition to his son, survivors include daughter Kristi Nelson of Nisswa, son Greg of Big Marine, Minn., and sister Darlene Bolme of Brainerd.
Due to COVID-19, a private family service will be held.