An Oct. 26 obituary for Dr. Noel D. Wilkie incorrectly referred to his service on the board of the University of Wyoming. He served on the board of the University of Wyoming Alumni Association, not the board of the University of Wyoming. (Published 10/27/2005)
Noel David Wilkie, 74, a retired Navy dentist cited for heroic achievement during a tragic fire in 1969 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and who also was a dental professor at Georgetown and New York universities, died Oct. 16 at Georgetown University Hospital. A resident of Rockville and Bethany Beach, Del., he had complications from Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Born on the Fourth of July, 1931, in Powell, Wyo., Dr. Wilkie remained a devoted son of that state his whole life. He fished its trout streams and served on the board of the University of Wyoming, where he received a bachelor's degree in chemistry and zoology in 1953. He was board president in 1998 and 1999.
After receiving his degree in dentistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1957, he began a 28-year career in the Navy Dental Corps serving aboard the transport USS General A.E. Anderson. Following two years of private practice in Lovell, Wyo., he returned to the Navy Dental Corps for postgraduate study at the Navy's dental school in Bethesda.
On the morning of Jan. 14, 1969, Dr. Wilkie was aboard the Enterprise, a nuclear-powered vessel, when 500-pound and 1,000-pound bombs on the ship began exploding on the flight deck. A horrendous blast ripped the carrier, known as the "Big E," down to the waterline.
Medical doctors often were in short supply on the 5,000-man carrier, and Dr. Wilkie was in charge of a battle dressing station, despite the fact that he was a dental officer. His station was closest to where the bombs exploded, so many of the wounded were brought to his area first.
He and his medical team opened a nearby chef's quarters as a hospital ward and performed triage throughout the day. Because power had been knocked out, they worked by flashlight. They stood ankle-deep in seawater and jet fuel, which leaked from burning planes on the flight deck above.
Dr. Wilkie performed several tracheotomies and amputated a sailor's leg. He received a Navy Commendation Medal for heroic achievement.
At the end of his career, his decorations included two more awards of the Navy Commendation Medal and two awards of the Navy Meritorious Service Medal.
After the Enterprise, he worked at the Navy's dental school, where he was chief of the complete denture section, director of second-year residencies and a course director and lecturer until 1974. After a four-year assignment at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington, he served as commanding officer of the Naval Regional Dental Clinic at Pearl Harbor. He was dental officer of the U.S. Pacific Fleet from 1978 to 1982 and then returned to the Washington area.
From 1982 until his retirement in 1984, he was the assistant chief of staff for dentistry at the Naval Medical Command National Capital Region and a lecturer at the Naval School of Health Sciences in Bethesda.
After his retirement, he served as an associate professor in the Georgetown University dental school. When Georgetown closed the school in 1989, he continued his teaching career at New York University, retiring again in 1994.
The author of nine journals and four monographs, Dr. Wilkie was instrumental in founding the Journal of Prosthodontics and served as an organizational editor to the Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry. He was a fellow and past president of the American College of Prosthodontists and past president of the group's education foundation.
He was named teacher of the year at Georgetown's dental school in 1986 and humanitarian of the year in 1990 by the District Dental Society.
He enjoyed reading, biking, cooking, baseball and beach activities.
Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Constance J. Wilkie of Rockville and Bethany Beach; two children, Nancy J. Wilkie of Brookeville and Jeffrey J. Wilkie of Gaithersburg; a sister; and four granddaughters.