Robert M. Unger was a longtime dentist on the Southwest Side and a past president of the Illinois State Dental Society.
A forceful advocate for fluoridation in drinking water during the 1960s, Unger was also very comfortable lobbying legislators at the state and national levels on health issues, colleagues said.
“He was always on the front line, and willing to volunteer and spend his personal money to go out there and help advance health care for the population,” said Bob Rechner, the retired executive director of the Illinois State Dental Society. “Bob had nothing but good in his heart for dentistry and bringing good dental health care to the people of the state of Illinois.”
Unger, 93, died of heart failure on Sept. 5 at the Brookdale senior living community in Burr Ridge, where he had moved just a month before his death, said his son Joe, who also is a dentist. Unger previously had lived in a retirement community in La Grange Park for two years and before that had been a longtime resident of the Southwest Side Garfield Ridge neighborhood.
Unger was born in Chicago to Austrian immigrant parents. He grew up in the South Side Fuller Park neighborhood and graduated from De La Salle Institute. He then attended Loyola University Chicago for two years before enlisting in the Army during World War II and immediately studying in an accelerated, three-year doctor of dental surgery program at the Chicago College of Dental Surgery, which now is part of Loyola’s dental school.
After earning his dental degree in 1946, Unger served for two years as a captain in the Army Dental Corps, stationed at a hospital at Fort Lewis, Wash. In 1948, Unger started a private practice at 63rd Street and Western Avenue.
Unger immersed himself in charitable work. From 1950 until 1965, he oversaw the dental clinic at the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. School for Exceptional Children in Palos Park. He also became active in dental organizations, first as a member of the Englewood branch of the Chicago Dental Society and then as the co-founder of the Illinois Dental Political Committee, called DENT-IL-PAC, in 1962. Unger became the president of the Illinois State Dental Society in 1973 and was an American Dental Association vice president in 1973-74. He later served as an American Dental Association trustee and was a member of the organization’s political action committee from 1986 until 1992.
“He gave a lot of us younger dentists the…