SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Santa Maria has lost a civic leader and philanthropist with the death of Dr. Dennis Shepard earlier this week at age 85.
Dr. Shepard was a successful eye doctor and businessman who made a name for himself on the Central Coast and around the world and called Santa Maria his home.
A pioneering and innovative eye surgeon, Dr. Dennis Shepard was also a local mover and shaker who helped get things done in the community but shunned the spotlight and media attention that came with it.
When it came to helping people, Dr. Dennis Shepard was more than just an ophthalmologist, he was a guiding light in the lives of many in the community he loved and called home.
"One of the guiding principles since early on was that we would be a good neighbor", says his son Dr. Dan Shepard, "we would be part of the community, taking care of the community."
The Shepard Eye Center in Santa Maria became the foundation of his professional career but it embodied much more of him and his philosophy on life.
"The Eye Center motto was to take care of those in the area who needed the most, we didn’t distinguish based on ethnicity, or income or resources, we took all-comers", Dan Shepard says, "it was a unique perspective in terms of providing medical care at the time and I think it was a great support to the community and the community in turn supported us."
Dr. Dennis Shepard is a name that is easy to find across Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County, its also well known around the world and as a holder of several professional patents.
"He was one of the first five people implanting lenses in eyes as part of the treatment of cataracts surgery", Dan Shepard says, "at the time it was considered malpractice and heresy and today its standard of care and he's still considered one of the principal founders of the process, the technique of implanting lenses, he has at least 11 instrument patents in his name, many still bear his name and are used on a daily basis in cataracts surgery."
"We had a period of time where we had doctors from as many as 58 countries coming to do short internships here in town", Dan Shepard says, "it was a way to broaden the appeal of the area while also training people from around the world."
"He brought tremendous passion and energy to those things that were important to him but he was often content to be the driver but not be in the front seat so to speak", Dan Shepard says about his father, "he liked to see it move, but he didn’t necessarily put himself in front of the camera or on the front steps."
The Shepard family is planning a memorial service next month for Dr. Dennis Shepard who was 85 years old.