On the northwest corner of Colorado Avenue and Arbor Way sits two pieces of Turlock history. The most obvious to passersby is the towering coastal redwood tree, planted on that spot in 1927 by Mary Ellen Niel, a beloved piano teacher. Nestled under the ancient tree, however, is an unassuming thatched-roof building that has been the office of Dr. Robert Johns, O.D. for the past 35 years.
Johns, a 1960 Turlock High graduate who received his degree in optometry from the University of California, Berkeley, has spent the majority of his life building a practice where serving the needs of his patients is not only his profession, but also a calling.
"I have a strong Christian faith, part of that is to look at people differently, to serve them in different parts of their lives," said Johns.
Johns grew his practice over the decades centered around the relationships he made with his patients, and also with the goal offering the best eye care possible.
"In the past 10 years, optometry has become a primary eye care practice," he said.
As the technology has advanced, so has his ability as an optometrist to diagnose diseases of the eye. Johns developed a network of colleagues, including ophthalmologists and surgeons, who he feels comfortable sending his patients to for more specialized treatment.
After three decades of keeping an eye on his patients, Johns made the decision to sell his practice.
"I was real concerned about finding someone to come into my practice who would be vested in the interest of my patients," he said.
After an extensive search, he found not one but two optometrists looking to build on what he started — Jacob and Lindsay Plett.
"They have my same faith, philosophy and desire to serve people. They're an answer to prayer," said Johns.
Buying Johns' Turlock practice is a homecoming for Jacob Plett. He grew up on a dairy in the area, attended Turlock Christian Elementary School before transferring to Denair schools where he graduated from Denair High School. He got his undergraduate degree at California State University, Stanislaus and then transferred to the Southern California School of Optometry, where he met his future wife, Lindsay.
After graduation from optometry school, the Pletts moved to Washington, D. C. so Jacob could fulfill his Air Force scholarship program obligations. Once his tour of service was completed, the couple started looking for a place to set up practice.
They found a listing for Johns' Turlock practice and began communicating with him about the details.
"It was a God thing," said Lindsay Plett. "We have the same philosophy, running the practice as a ministry and a life's work."
"It's probably destiny," said Jacob Plett. "We had common ground from the get go. I want to continue the legacy he built here in this office."
The Pletts have settled into their new home and office, which is a little bit of an adjustment for Lindsay who is a native of South Dakota.
"It's so dusty," she said. "But the people have helped me overlook the heat the dust."
The Pletts plan to offer the same dedicated care, and few more services. They are both glaucoma certified and have a new method of contact lens fitting that will be introduced soon.
Johns will get to see his legacy live on, as he will continue to see patients twice a week in the Colorado Avenue office.
"It will be our livelihood for hopefully many decades to come," said Lindsay Plett.
Johns' patients and the community at large will get a chance to meet the Pletts at an open house set for 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 17 at the office, located at 1001 Colorado Ave. For more information, call 667-6031.