Tribute to A/Prof Norton Duckmanton: Life of Opportunity

This loving tribute has been written by Iven Klineberg, Dale Howes, Kent Yuen, Peter Duckmanton.

It is with sadness that we advise that our dear friend and colleague Norton Duckmanton has passed away. Norton served Dentistry and the specialty of Prosthodontics as a devoted professional who was admired and respected as a teacher, clinician, and friend.

Norton was a friend and colleague to staff, and countless undergraduate and postgraduate students whilst teaching prosthodontics in the at the University of Sydney Dental School, and later as a specialist prosthodontist at the Sydney Dental Hospital. A period of over 55 years!

He was born 12 November 1925 and grew from humble beginnings on a dairy farm in the Clare Valley of South Australia, where he was expected to milk at least three cows before going to school! He lost his mum at age six and his father remarried. Because of an intolerable family situation, he had to leave home and school at the age of 15, working in a foundry in Adelaide, and living with his grandfather until joining the Air Force at 18. He was selected for Navigator training and graduated in early 1944 as a navigator and wireless operator and was assigned to a squadron flying Bristol Beaufighters (a ground attack and antishipping aircraft) and served with 93 Squadron serving in Borneo until the end of WWII.

Norton had always believed that someone above was looking after him. On 14 August 1945, his aircraft was to be the third on a sortie to stage a raid against a heavily fortified land- based naval gun. As the raid was scheduled for mid-morning, the defenders would know the position of the attacking aircrafts after the first plane had released its rockets and banked away. Norton knew that, as he was in the third aircraft, by which time the defenders would have the range and bearing of the attackers, he was unlikely to survive this mission. It was just when the target was reached, he received a morse message to return to base as all hostilities would cease at noon and the war in the Pacific was over. A heart thumping moment made a dramatic turn to be one of joy and relief.

He served as part of the BCOF in Japan based at Bofu (where he became a part-time black marketeer in cigarettes to US forces!). He was in Hiroshima in March 1946 and saw first-hand the effects of nuclear war. Implanted in his mind forever was the silhouettes on concrete walls of those incinerated. He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of Warrant Officer.

In RAAF Service, he was decorated with Pacific Star 1939-1945, Aust. Defence Medal 1939-1945, Victory Medal, Aust. Service Medal 45-75, Reserve Forces Decoration (and 2 bars). His service with the armed forces continued as he joined the Citizen Air Force as a Dental Officer with the rank Flight Lieutenant in 1952, was promoted to the rank of Wing Commander in 1973, and subsequently Group Captain in 1977.

Due to his war service, Norton enrolled in 1948 to obtain his matriculation (he had only completed two years of high school whilst a boy) under a special rehabilitation programme for ex-servicemen, and thereafter immediately enrolled as a first-year dental student (after rejecting Medicine as it was a six-year course) at The University of Sydney. He believed he could contribute to dentistry with the skills and inquisitive attitude developed during his war service. His technical skills were no doubt enhanced by the skills he learnt working in a foundry casting metal objects.

Norton graduated BDS in 1952 and after a residency at Sydney Dental Hospital, opened a rural dental practice in the Hunter Valley town of Muswellbrook (with branch practices in Denman and Merriwa) for 10 years where he became very successful at the crafting of complete and partial dentures. Norton returned to his old university as a teaching fellow and enrolled for his MDS in 1963, graduating with the thesis "Rest Position in Adult Males". Here he worked with his most significant mentor Prof Cam Graham with whom he had a long-time friendship. He was appointed lecturer in the Department of Prosthodontics and promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1977. Here he continued his research on overdentures on natural teeth.

He worked with Prof Iven Klineberg, then Head of Department, to establish the Sydney Dental Hospital / Faculty of Dentistry Implant Centre, to facilitate patient care and research into long-term follow-ups of implant cases. Between 1986 and 2014, his practice at the Sydney Dental Hospital was devoted exclusively to implant rehabilitation. During this time, he also spent some time in private specialist practice in Macquarie St, Sydney.

During a period of sabbatical leave in 1974, Norton took up a position as a visiting Associate Professor at Northwestern University, Chicago, USA and was retained as a part-time visiting Professor at the same university until 2004 making two more year-long visits working with fellow Australians Prof Gilbert Brinsden and Prof Ross Taylor. It was there that Norton and Ross Taylor wrote the manual titled 'Overlay Dentures for Students; Using decoronated natural teeth restored with root caps supporting precision attachment retention anchors'. This was a major development in removable prosthodontics and foreshadowed the concept of implant overdentures for completely edentulous patients.

He served as the inaugural president of the Australian Osseointegration Society and was awarded life membership in 2015. He had been a member of the Academy of Australia and New Zealand Prosthodontists since 1963 serving in various roles and the Australian Prosthodontic Society and received life membership in 2012. He was also a member of Academy of Osseointegration, American Prosthodontic society, International Academy of Prosthodontics, Pierre Fauchard Academy and Australian Military Medicine Association. Due to Norton's significant contributions, he was honoured with the Reserve Forces Oration in 1990 and an Order of Australia Medal in 2007.

Norton was affectionately known as "Duck" or "Ducky", and considered himself fortunate and often commented that he was able to achieve largely from the privilege and opportunity of "standing on the shoulders of giants".

We extend our prayers and condolences to Norton's family and friends.

Rest in Peace our dear friend!

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