“Tom is just an amazing person and hard to sum up briefly! He loves people, pretty much everyone. He has a raucous and pervasive sense of humor, an optimistic and positive outlook, such talent as a caring dentist and musician and community member…not sure what else to say but honored to be a friend of his.”
When Tom and Barbara Alexander came to Roxboro in the early 1970s, they probably had no idea of the impact they would have on the community. Tom and fellow dentist Jeff Noblett found a place to practice in Dr. Norman Hall’s office in Roxboro. As it was a small office at that time, Tom and Jeff worked the afternoons and into the evenings. This would prove to be fortuitous when it came to Tom performing in The Red Stocking Revues, hosted by the Roxboro Woman’s Club every other year.
“Tom and I graduated from dental school together and decided to practice together, but we really didn’t have a place in mind. A dental salesman brought us to Roxboro and neither one of us had ever heard of it. We liked the town immediately and decided to set up shop here. The best decision of our lives.”
Dr. Jeff Noblett
After getting settled in their practices, Tom and Jeff – along with their wives – purchased old houses across the street from each other on South Main Street. They did extensive renovations, saving these two houses from destruction, which was the fate of some beautiful old homes just down the street. Tom and Barbara, in addition to refurbishing an old house, were expecting their first child.
So, It Begins
Amidst the chaos of moving into their new home, a neighbor, Dr. Robert Long, also a dentist, told Tom and Barbara, “I am taking you to church on Sunday.” Thus began the Alexanders’ huge presence in Long Memorial United Methodist Church. Their presence quickly spread into the community; from the very first, neither Tom nor Barbara shied away from becoming involved in their new town. Tom would hold various offices with the volunteers known as Santa’s Helpers and served as president in 1979. In the same year, he served as general manager of a stewardship campaign for Long Memorial UMC called the Pony Express, along with involvement in other civic organizations. The Alexanders’ circle of friends rapidly grew, and their house became the site of many great parties, especially during Red Stocking Revue season.
The Red Stocking Revue and Roxboro Little Theater
When I think of Tom, the first two things that come to mind are The Red Stocking Revue – the fundraising event held every other year by the Roxboro Woman’s Club – and the Roxboro Little Theater of the late 1970s and ‘80s. Tom participated in every Red Stocking Revue from 1974 until 2007 except for one. He had been active in high school musicals and had seven years of dance, so he was a welcome addition to the talent pool for Red Stockings. He was also available for rehearsals in the mornings as he was a second-shift dentist at the time. In one of the shows, he performed “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and did it so well that it prompted a petition that was sent to the Roxboro Little Theater board to mount a production of George M., the story of George M. Cohan, composer of the song. Sadly, this never happened.
Tom’s participation in the arts wasn’t limited to every other year in the Red Stocking. He was a member of the first Arts Council that was formed in the mid-1970s, and appeared in many Roxboro Little Theater productions, playing such iconic roles as Snoopy in Good Man Charlie Brown and the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. If he wasn’t on stage singing and dancing in productions such as The Fantasticks, Hello Dolly, Anything Goes, Godspell, Company, Camelot, and Guys and Dolls, he could be found in the director’s chair or anywhere else he was needed. He served on the board of directors and even took a turn as chairman. In addition, he appeared in many fundraising projects held at the Kirby Theater, such as the Cabaret for Hospice. Those were the days. So glad that I got to not only witness them but play a small part.
Historical Preserver: At Least of Two Houses
In the July 15, 1984, Sunday edition of the Durham Herald-Sun, a feature article by Flo Johnston was entitled “Roxboro Dentist Saves House from Decay.” It more accurately should have read “…Saves Another House from Decay.” Tom and Barbara had bought and moved into the house next to 415 S. Main Street when they first moved to town. Ironically it was Jeff Noblett who brought the house to Tom’s attention, and for Tom, it was love at first sight. Maybe not so much for Barbara, but she soon felt the same way. It took three years in the house before it was, according to Barbara, “really fixed up.” They did some of the work themselves, which served as a practice run for the house next door.
When Mr. Willson, owner of the adjacent home, moved into an assisted living facility, the Alexanders purchased the house and began restoring and repurposing it as a dental office for Tom. The first thing to go was the wrap-around porch that Mr. Willson had added to the house, along with 10 exterior doors. It seems Mr. Willson once owned the Dowdy Hotel down the street and was very conscious of fire safety. Some lumber from the ceiling of that porch was made into the reception desk still found in the house today. Tom and Barbara did much of the work themselves, especially the fine detail work.
“…is seen rather in terms of the love that he has
For his family and for everyone…
…The fun, laughter, joy and happiness he gives to his
family and to others…
Grady Poulard may never have met Tom Alexander, but he sure can describe him. In all of his community involvement, Tom’s work with his patients, his Red Stocking and Little Theater experiences, and house renovating, he has always been a family man. When he came to town, he made and still is making all of us better. He is all the roles he has played and so much more. He created a place to practice his profession and has passed it on, along with three generations of patients. He delighted and moved so many of us to tears and laughter with his performances and his dedication to this community.
The house at 415 South Main Street is now home to its third dentist; as someone said, “a young Tom.” That house is not just a dentist’s office, but a testimony to the care and the love of the past and things worth preserving.
“Tom is the type of dentist and man I hope to emulate in both my career and my life. He cares deeply about his patients and is the pinnacle of what it means to be a dental professional. I swear we can still hear his booming laugh echoing through the walls of the office.”
Brian J. Swift, DDS, PA
415 South Main Street
Roxboro, NC 27573
Learn about the author at https://ncvamedia.com/authors/norwood-walker/