Coming to Manti was one of the best decisions they ever made
After 26 years, Astes sold the family dental practice Manti
MANTI—In the mid-1990s, Dr. Leonard Aste worked as a dentist for the United States Public Health Service. For seven years in the Public Health Service, he had been assigned to various federal penitentiaries.
At their home in Oregon, “I made sure all the windows…were locked before our kids fell asleep,” says his wife, Ellen. “There had been kidnappings and all kinds of crazy stuff.”
The Astes, who had both grown up in Davis County, wanted to move back to Utah. “We drew a circle,” Leonard said. “We wanted to be within five hours, but preferably within a few hours” of Salt Lake. They were “really lucky,” he says, to find a dental practice for sale in Manti.
A few months ago, after 26 years, the Astes sold the practice to Dr. Richard Carlile, who previously practiced in Port Angeles, Washington. Leonard’s last day in the office was late August.
Reflecting on his years as a family dentist for residents of Manti and Sanpete County, Leonard says, “That’s all I wanted it to be. When I got into dentistry, I wanted to have a practice where I knew my patients like friends, and that’s exactly what I think I did.
His years as owner of Manti Family Dental all come down to people, he says. “We have some of the most amazing people you could ever want to meet… It’s been an absolutely wonderful and rewarding experience to have them as friends and to have their support.”
Ellen, who served two terms on the South Sanpete School Board and is now an Elementary Arts Specialist in the North Sanpete School District, says the main lesson she has learned from the past 26 years is, “Don’t don’t be afraid to try new things. Going into private practice, there were so many unknowns, but we just unpacked the bags (and) dove headfirst into them. If you’re willing to do the work, you get the dividends.
After Leonard’s time in the public health department and by the time they moved to Manti, they had four children. “Our youngest was only a few months old.” Ellen said. At that time, she focused on raising children.
The two Astes had spent their lives up to then in the cities. Moving to Manti was a revelation. “I remember going to Manti Grocery and not really believing it was my grocery store,” Ellen says.
The only place they could find to rent was at 300 North, across from Temple Hill. “The following year, I was totally surprised at the influx of people for the (Mormon Miracle) Pageant. The sound just blew up in that little house. The crowds and the parking lot. It was just crazy.
The solution: participate. “I did the competition with my children from then on, I jumped in with both feet,” she says.
While building his practice in Manti, Leonard became deeply involved in what has become a huge effort to provide dental services to the poorest people in the Dominican Republic (located in the Caribbean Sea on the same island where Haiti).
“I grew up in a very, very poor home,” he said. “A lot of people helped us. My desire to help others was kind of instilled very early on.
A fellow dentist invited him to travel to the Dominican Republic after a hurricane. His friend brought a dental student. “When we went there, we just saw this incredible need,” he says. And he and his friend observed “what an incredible experience” the trip was for the student.
Within a few years, Leonard took it upon himself to create a nonprofit foundation and obtain a 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS, which allowed the foundation to accept tax-deductible contributions. ‘tax. The foundation started raising funds, buying equipment and making two trips a year.
“It spread like wildfire,” he says. “We started to welcome students from all over the country, and even from abroad.”
The foundation recruits students from the University College Dental School and a private dental school in Salt Lake County. But he has also developed relationships with dental schools in Scotland and Spain. Schools require students to undertake a humanitarian trip abroad.
“We have a collaboration with the dental hygiene program at Dixie State (now Utah Tech). We have about eight hygiene students,” explains Leonard.
The foundation has also developed a partnership with the Physician Assistant Program at Idaho State University in Pocatello and typically takes eight Physician Assistant students and some ISU faculty on each trip.
Over the past 25 years, Leonard has played a key role in organizing at least 40 trips involving 3,000 healthcare professionals and other volunteers.
“We decided to make our group a mobile group,” he says. “We can practice anywhere, whether it’s under a banana tree or in a tent. We provide services to people in very remote villages.
Many people from Sanpete County, including the Aste children, have participated in these trips. The Manti LDS Stake Humanitarian Center sent “hundreds and hundreds” of baby kits and T-shirt dresses for young children.
As Leonard was building her humanitarian foundation, Ellen decided she wanted to “be involved in education in a meaningful way.”
She applied to the South Sanpete School Board and started going door to door. In her first race, she lost. But in her second race, she won by eight votes. She was re-elected for a second term by 10 votes.
Reflecting on her conditions on the school board, she says, “I already knew that, but the education people are there for all the right reasons. Almost everyone does it because they believe they can make a difference, because their efforts on behalf of students and children will impact those lives.
While Ellen was on the school board, despite South Sanpete being one of the poorest districts in the state, the district was able to give every high school student iPads, hire quality teachers, and most importantly again, make significant capital investments.
Ephraim and Gunnison have new elementary schools. Additions were built on Manti Elementary and Manti High School. And a new kindergarten was built near Manti Primary School.
“Nobody does this alone,” she says, “but you get a team of like-minded people together, and the things you can accomplish — that’s pretty good.”
The Astes’ own children benefited from the schools in southern Sanpete, especially in the field of sports.
“The kids had so many wonderful opportunities, so many great coaches, so many friends,” Ellen says. “Here, our children could play three sports a year, and they could excel in all three. It was an incredible opportunity that we could give them.
All of the Aste children are graduates of Utah Valley University. His daughter Whitney, a former Miss Manti, went to dental school at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., the same school Leonard attended, and is now a pediatric dentist in Salt Lake City.
Griffin, a son, played football at Snow before graduating from UVU and now works for an internet marketing startup in St. George. Brady does marketing for a company in Provo.
Connor, the youngest, decided to go back to school to study education with the goal of becoming a high school football coach. He is currently helping the Manti football team.
Ellen says that after her school board service ended and her kids grew up, “it was really an adjustment to find a new place to fit in.” She had a degree from the U. of U. in Education. But at the end of her forties, she decided to return to university to obtain her master’s degree.
She went to Western Governors University, an online university known for assigning large volumes of written work. “It was incredibly difficult,” she said.
“She’s been great,” Leonard says. “She won awards for her master’s thesis…I was very proud of her.”
After a year working for a grant-funded program to steer underprivileged children into kindergarten and another year teaching at Snow, she accepted the position of art specialist at North Sanpete. Each week, she visits four of the five elementary schools in the district and teaches all classes in the schools.
The Astes had thought of selling Manti Family Dental within the next two years. Then, out of the blue, Leonard received a call from Dr. Carlile. Like the Astes decades earlier, the Carliles wanted to return to Utah to raise their family. Richard Carlile’s wife, Rose Fife Carlile, had grown up in Manti.
“We met and I sort of vetted him to see if he had the experience to take care of my patients,” Leonard says. “…He has been away for about 10 years and has a post-graduate education…I feel good with him and his family. They are going to be a real asset to the community, him and his wife.
Leonard points out that he is not retiring, just moving on to other aspects of dentistry. He now teaches at the University College Dental School two to three days a week.
He works for insurance companies reviewing problematic claims and advising companies on the suitability of services. He travels the country as an examiner for the clinical portion of the dental licensing exam. This involves observing students who are about to graduate to determine if they are ready to practice.
He is treasurer of the Utah Dental Association and in a few years is expected to become president of the association.
Many dentists focus on money or recreation, he says. “Then there are some of us who want to make sure the profession retains its credibility… They’re just a great group of people, and I love working with them.”
The Astes say one thing is certain. Coming to Manti was one of the best decisions of their lives. “We could have made a lot more money if we had stayed on the Wasatch front,” Leonard said. “But the quality of life and the environment in which we wanted to raise our children – it was worth it.”