Patsy McGuire

By Jim Buchanan

A chapter of Jackson County history drew to a close with the death of Dr. Patsy McGuire on July 4 at the age of 102.

The history book of the family remains open, however, as Jackson County’s “First Family of Dentistry’’ continues to build the McGuire legacy.

While Patsy McGuire built an enviable legacy on her own, it’s virtually impossible to tell her tale without related family lore, as “Dr. Patsy’’ was part of the third generation of five generations of McGuires, with at least 15 descendants and spouses from the family having served in the dental field.

The McGuire family history traces back to James Zachary. Zachary practiced dentistry following the Civil War; his second child, Daisy, became the first woman licensed to practice dentistry in North Carolina. 

Daisy married Wayne McGuire of the Norton community, and their three children – Kitty Dean, Noracella and Patsy – all became dentists.

In turn, Patsy’s sons Patrick and David have carried on the family tradition.

Patsy met Harold McGuire in 1935 at Atlanta Southern Dental College, now part of Emory University. The two married in 1938. They were star students at Atlanta Southern, with Harold graduating first in the class and Patsy third.

Patsy’s mother, Daisy, was the first woman to graduate from the college.

The McGuire family has been marked with its service in dentistry, and also for their longevity. Patsy and Harold McGuire, who died in 2017, were married 79 years. 

Harold served on the Jackson County Board of Health and was a member of Sylva Rotary Club for 77 years and was believed to be the longest-serving Rotarian on record.

Upon her retirement in 1977 at the age of 97, Daisy McGuire was the nation’s oldest practicing dentist.

Patsy McGuire, at the age of 98, had an art display in the Jackson County Arts Council’s Rotunda Gallery of her county vistas painted with oil paints and a palette knife.

Dr. Patsy was a long-time member of First United Methodist Church of Sylva, where she celebrated her 102nd birthday in February of this year.

Jim Gray, long-time publisher of the Sylva Herald, spoke of Patsy McGuire’s love for her community.

“Patsy – and all the McGuires – were great believers in what the community was trying to do through volunteerism, buying tickets and blankets to help build up organizations … you could count on the McGuires to back whatever was going on,’’ he said.