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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lewis Claybon, Bright Spot of the South St. Louis Commute, Gets a New Smile

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 6:55 AM

click to enlarge Lewis Claybon flashes his brand new smile. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • Photo by Doyle Murphy
  • Lewis Claybon flashes his brand new smile.

If you ever needed proof karma is real, check out Lewis Claybon's new smile.

The daycare cook who spends hours every weekday morning and afternoon watching over little kids and waving to south St. Louis commuters has a new set of teeth thanks to a Bridgeton dentist who heard about his good work.

"I like his message," Dr. Ted Rechtin says. "He's just trying to brighten up people's day."

Claybon has posted up for the last dozen or so years outside Lamb's Bride Child Care Center on the corner of Tower Grove and Vista avenues, cheering the daily procession of sullen drivers with a big, if crooked, smile.

"Positive brings about positive," he says, explaining his simple philosophy.
click to enlarge Lewis Claybon figured his old teeth were something he'd have to live with for the rest of his life. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • Photo by Doyle Murphy
  • Lewis Claybon figured his old teeth were something he'd have to live with for the rest of his life.

We named him one of our Reasons to Love St. Louis, and budding filmmaker Christopher Hill highlighted him in a short feature. One of Hill's acquaintances through the nonprofit Mission: St. Louis passed the article and Hill's film to Rechtin, who offered to replace Claybon's teeth.

Hill thought it was a great idea, but he did not want to insult Claybon if his dental problems were a sensitive topic.

"I was like, man, I don't know how to approach this," he says. So he just asked.

He need not have worried.

"I was like, woo!" Claybon says. "I told them, 'Yes!'"

He had never liked the looks of his teeth, but he had made peace with them long ago. They never kept him from smiling.

Then he went in one morning last month, and Rechtin pulled all his old teeth and replaced them with gleaming white dentures. The dentist will eventually replace those with a permanent set.

"I never had pain," Claybon says of his old teeth, "but the smile is like, 'Yeah, baby!'"

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.

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