The Man My Late Husband Was.

The Tribute

Thomas Henry Trevathan

14th January 1985

It was not my priviledge to have known Tom Trevathan in person although I was aware of the respect in which he was held in the community as an oral surgeon. The name Trevathan of course was well known to me as a rugby loving youngster in Dunedin in the late 30's and early 40's and I was interested to learn that Tom had preceeded me to Kings High School in Dunedin by just a few years.

It is perhaps convenient to look at Tom's life in 3 ways;


His sporting and recreational activities.

His professional life.

His personal and family life.



Lover of the outdoors.

Over the years Tom has been a keen fisherman, skier, tramper and yachtsman and server for a time as President of the North Otago Gliding Club. When the children were young he served on school commitees and assisted with Sea Scouts.

Tom graduated from the Otago University Dental School with a Batchelor of Dental Surgery in 1952. For the next two years he was the dental surgeon at Seacliff Hospital.

In 1955 he was the lecturer in Oral Anatomy and Pathology. From 1956-57 Tom was the visiting dental surgeon to Waitaki Hospital Board.

In 1961-62 Tom spent 13 months doing post graduate studies in the United Kingdom and in 1968 passed the final examinations for Fellowship of the Australian College of Dental Surgeons and Oral Surgery and in 1967 the Dental Council of NZ approved his using the specialist description Oral Surgeon.

For some years he was external examiner on Oral Pathology, Anatomy, Physiology and Surgery at Dental School, an appointment which speaks well of the regard in which he was held by his academic colleagues. He also served on the NZ Dental Council.

For the past 17 years Tom practiced in Invercargill as an Oral Surgeon. I have conferred with some of his colleagues and they have given me this picture of Tom's professional contribution.

In the eyes of many he was regarded as the father of the local branch of the Dental Association. He was the first Oral Surgeon on Southland and his patients always came first. In his work he displayed the highest professional ability. Of particular signifigance was his influence on the young graduate dental house surgeons at Kew, many of whom were encouraged to undertake post-graduate studies. It was through Tom's efforts that the Dental department was established at Kew Hospital. One of his colleagues had this to say of Tom; “he was the forerunner of the new era in dentistry with his foresight and enthusiasm to see change in changing times.”

That brief outline of Tom's professional career is but the skeleton for behind it all was a man who was willing and able to meet the demands of a highly specialised profession. His commitment to the work meant being often on call 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. This kind of service was not without personal cost.

In his work he displayed a great care and concern for his patients, many of whom were probably unaware of the skill required to repair their injuries.

But Tom was interested not only in his own practice but in Dentistry as a whole and in 1967 he had published in the NZ Dental Journal a thoughtful article on the 'Future of Dentistry in NZ'. This article was very received and letters of appreciation were received from Professor Alister Smiley, professor of Oral Anatomy and Pathology, Mr. Hodder, President of the NZ Dental Association, Mr. Colin Geary of Biochemistry Department, and the Otago University Dental Students Association.

And so the city has lost a professional man of high calibre, one who will be missed not only on the local scene but by the profession as a whole. He will be remembered as one who accepted bravely his own serious illness and fought it to the end making very good use of the time that was left to him.

Obituary - Mr. T. H. Trevathan - January 1985


A highly respected Invercargill Oral Surgeon, Mr. Thomas Henry Trevathan died in Invercargill last Thursday after a long illness.


Mr. Trevathan, who had more than 30 years experience in Oral Surgery, came to Invercargill in about 1967 to work as oral surgeon to the Southland Hospital Board and in private practice.
He graduated from the University of Otago with a Batchelor of Dental Science in 1951 and in the following two years worked as a surgeon at Seacliff Hospital.
From about 1954 to 1955 he lectured at the University of Otago Dental School in oral anatomy and pathology before going into general practice in Oamaru in 1956.
During the following 10 years, Mr. Trevathan was also oral surgeon to the Otago Hospital Board based in Oamaru. It was during this time that he developed a strong interest in Oral Surgery.

Australian College

From about 1963 to 1964 he lived in England studying for his primay examinations for fellowship of the Royal College of Australian Denatl Surgeons. He sat and passed the examinations to become a fellow of the RDADS in 1968.
Mr. Trevathan also had as active interest in the 'political' side of dentistry. Whilst in Oamaru, he served as a national council representative for the North Otago area of the New Zealand Dentists Association. He also served as the South Island representative on the New Zealand Dental Council, which is the dentists governing body.


He was a well respected spokesman on many topics relating to dentistry and was well known for his visions of the future of dentistry.
A colleague and personal friend said 'he could not speak highly enough of Mr. Trevathan as both a professional and a man'.
He said Mr. Trevathan's devotion to his work and the public he served was 'undeniable and unbelieveable,' often at the expense of his personal life.
In the final 2 years of his life, while suffering from a terminal illness, he showed great courage and devotion by continuing his work until Christmas Eve.


His skill as a surgeon was also outstanding.
"I don't know how we're going to get on without him," Mr. Beale said.
Mr. Trevathan had an interest in the outdoors, particularly yachting and boating, but in the last 20 years he devoted himself entirely to his work, he said.
"He was on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week... he was definitely one of the unsung heroes around the place."
As a professional, he was 'brilliant', but he was also a 'very deep and understanding man.'
Mr. Trevathan in survived by his wife, Nancy, and two sons, two daughters, a step-son and a step-daughter.

Lawyer 1 is: Mr Peter Galt from Hewat Galt, Invercargill, New Zealand.
Lawyer 2 is: Mr Kevin Phillips from Macalister Todd Phillips Bodkin, Queenstown

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