By nature and by profession, Edward T. Pierce brought smiles to thousands of people in the Manhasset area. The retired orthodontist, who practiced for 45 years in that North Shore community, died March 5 of natural causes at age 89.
In the early 1950s, Pierce began his dental career affixing braces to the teeth of children with protruding, crooked and gap-tooth smiles until happy with their appearance. Pierce treated "several thousand" young patients over the years, remembered his son Jeffrey, also a Manhasset orthodontist who, for a time, worked with his father.
"He treated children and when they grew up, he treated their children," Jeffrey recalled. "He was always happy and put the kids at ease."
As a young man, Pierce served in World War II as an ensign in the U.S. Navy, first aboard a destroyer in the North Atlantic in 1944, before heading to the Pacific, where he witnessed the Japanese surrender the following year. "We were part of the force that was going to attack Japan," Pierce recounted to a local newspaper in 2011.
Returning home after the war, Pierce graduated from Fordham University and received his dental training at Tufts University in Massachusetts, where at a dance he met his future wife, Janice, who survives him. The couple married in 1951 and raised seven children on Long Island -- all of whom wore braces at some time growing up.
Professionally, Pierce served as the president of the New York State Society of Orthodontists and, in his personal life, he acted as commodore at the Port Washington Yacht Club, overseeing activities for two years. "He learned how to be a leader in the military and he was a leader for the rest of his life," recalled his daughter Cynthia McGuinness of New City, in Rockland County.
He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, the American Legion, Kiwanis International and a past commander of the power squadron in Manhasset Bay.
While he enjoyed fishing and trapshooting, Pierce also relaxed by sailing near a family beach house in Southampton and taking his family aboard his 38-foot powerboat. "We went to Cape Cod, up the Hudson River to Canada and to the Bahamas -- we traveled a lot in that boat," recalled Jeffrey. After retiring in 1997, he kept residences in Southampton and Jensen Beach, Florida, before moving recently to Great Neck, where he died.
Other survivors are sons Roger of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Stevan of Coram; daughters Daphne Cannata, of Westerly, Rhode Island, Holly Browne of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and Deidra Maleno of Manhasset; brothers Bill of East Setauket and John of Bohemia; sisters Ann Marie of East Islip and Bernadette of North Bellmore; and 20 grandchildren.
A Mass was celebrated Monday at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Manhasset, followed by burial at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Cemetery in Southampton.