Board of Directors
The Board of Directors is a very diverse group. Each member brings unique skills, perspective and energy — key factors in ensuring the current and future success of the Clinic. The Board and its various committees are intimately involved in many facets of the Clinic, including fundraising activities, publicity, donor and community relations, strategic development and financial management. All Directors are volunteers and serve for a three-year period.
Dr. Paul DeCarlo
Ron Freeman, President
Ron grew up in Cleveland, OH and graduated from Ohio University with a BBA and a major in Management. He also attended The Executive Program (TEP) at Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Ron started his business career at Ohio Bell in the management development program and transferred to Miami with Southern Bell, where he continued his career with various executive sales management assignments. He continued as Vice President-Sales in Atlanta for BellSouth and AT&T and retired after 30 years of service. Ron then went to work for Siemens Corp. as Sales Vice President for 10 years and retired in 2010.
He has been married to his wife Donna for 45 years; they have two sons who live in New York City. Ron stays very active and enjoys playing tennis, as well as serving on the board of The Country Club of Sapphire Valley and the board of Golf Club Estates POA. He and Donna are full-time Sapphire residents.
Bill Blank, Treasurer
Bill Blank grew up in Bethlehem, PA. He is a 1970 graduate of Texas Christian University where he earned a BBA degree. His wife of 46 years, Sally, is also a TCU graduate. Bill and Sally have two children: Lisa Trumps of Beaufort, SC and Ben Blank of Huntsville, AL. They also have three grandchildren who reside in Beaufort.
Bill enjoyed a 31-year career in the commercial real estate investment advisory business working with the real estate subsidiary of Equitable Life. For many years, Equitable was the largest manager of commercial real estate assets for pension funds in the United States. His areas of concentration included the finance and acquisition of commercial properties and the management of real estate portfolios for large institutional investors. Some of his major client responsibilities included acquiring real estate assets and managing portfolios for The California State Teachers Retirement System, The Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, CBS/Westinghouse and Core Property Trust, a private REIT owned by 10 institutional investors.
Bill and Sally are full-time Cashiers residents and also enjoy spending time in Charleston where they own a condominium. Bill served for three years on the board of The Country Club of Sapphire Valley as a Director and Treasurer. He has been a volunteer for many years for the business office at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital. He served on the board of The Peggy Crosby Center in Highlands, NC for seven years and served as Co-Chair and Treasurer of that organization. He has also served on the Board of Golf Club Estates in Sapphire. Bill and Sally are both avid golfers and Bill also enjoys fishing on the beautiful rivers and streams in Western North Carolina.
Marianne Martinez, Secretary
Originally from Rutherford County in Western NC, Marianne is the Executive Director of Vecinos Farmworker Health Program. Hailing from a small, rural community and a farmworker family, Marianne is passionate about equity of services to all members of the community. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Development from Appalachian State University, a Masters in Public Administration from UNC Chapel Hill School of Government, as well as a Nonprofit Leadership Certificate from UNC Chapel Hill Social Work. She now lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, son, and furry dog.
Marianne states, “Western North Carolina has always been my home, both physically and mentally. The rich history, culture, and biodiversity continue to intrigue me every day. We are a community of resilient hard workers who value family and friends, good food, and our environment. I continue to live in WNC because all of my family is here and so is my heart!
"The BRFDC strives toward equity of services to all members of the community. Dental care is a gateway to overall health and is often too expensive for people to seek out. The BRFDC fills a gap in the community, ensuring that people who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford dental care can not only get quality services and health education, but also seek out other needed health care. The BRFDC has been central to the care of Vecinos Farmworker Health Program patients, in particular, and has amplified our services."
Ralph Greene, Director
Ralph was born and raised in Shelby, NC and graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne University in 1970 with a degree in Business Administration. He and his wife Becky were married that same summer. He is a Certified Public Accountant and spent the majority of his career at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. He held academic side positions as Internal Auditor, Finance Manager of the College of Dental Medicine, and Budget Director to the University. For the final 15 years of his career, Ralph moved to the 700-bed teaching hospital of the University, serving as Director of Financial Accounting and Reporting, Treasury Services and Tax Management.
In the fall of 2013, Ralph and Becky permanently moved to Cashiers after being weekenders at their home since 2006. Ralph served for 25 years in the US Army Reserve, retiring in 2008 as Sergeant Major. He currently serves on the vestry of the Church of the Good Shepherd, the board of The Country Club of Sapphire Valley, and is the current Treasurer and President-Elect of The Rotary Club of Cashiers Valley.
Peggy Wike, Director
Peggy Wike is a retired educator with Jackson County Public Schools. She spent her entire career in education, beginning as a classroom teacher and retiring as a Program Director. As Director of Media, she led Jackson County Schools to become the first county in the western part of the state to computerize libraries. She developed many after-school programs for students to encourage better school attendance and prevent dropouts.
Peggy is very active with The Rotary Club of Sylva, serving as President for 2015-2016. As a Rotarian, Peggy has traveled to the Philippines twice as a Friendship Ambassador and a Wheel of Hope member. She is a native of Jackson County and lives in Tuckasegee.
Paul Decarlo, DDS, Director
Dr. DeCarlo graduated from the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1971. After two years as an Air Force dentist, he and his wife Linda Kay moved back to South Florida where he was raised. Accompanied by a loyal staff, Dr. DeCarlo practiced in Fort Myers for 40 years and found great fulfillment in church and community activities as well.
After retiring in 2014, he and Linda Kay moved to North Carolina to be closer to their children and grandchildren. He loves spending time with his family and continuing his dentistry with the wonderful patients and outstanding staff at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic. Dr. DeCarlo is a weekly volunteer dentist with the Clinic as well as a Board Member.
William Canby, Director
Bill and his wife Kathe chose to live in Cashiers when he retired from SunTrust in 2010. The couple had been coming to the area since 1990 for vacations and getaways. Bill and Kathe enjoy the people they’ve met, friends they’ve made and the natural beauty of the mountains and distinct seasons.
Bill states the following about the Free Dental Clinic: “My association with the dental clinic goes back to seeing a tooth fairy for the first time! Since then, I’ve been associated with members of the board who are friends and several of the dentists and hygienists. I have come to appreciate the magnitude of the tremendous work done by all volunteers and have regularly attended the annual fundraiser. My interest in being involved with the clinic also stems from my work at The Church of the Good Shepherd as a member of our Outreach Committee, which has supported the Free Dental Clinic since its inception.”
Fred Fischer, Director
Fred grew up in Glen Rock, NJ. He graduated from La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA with a BS degree in Marketing. He started his business career in sales with Diamond Shamrock Chemical Corp. and through acquisition by Occidental Petroleum Chemical Corp., served as Western Regional Sales Manager in San Francisco, CA. From there he took a position as VP of Sales for Henkel Specialty Chemicals in Atlanta, GA. He ended his career in Atlanta as Director of Sales for North America for English China Clay Corp., a London-based company. Fred also served on the board for Syracuse University Pulp and Paper School.
Fred has been married to his wife Suzie for 45 years; they have one son who lives with his wife and triplet daughters in Charleston. In 2013, Fred and Suzie moved from Atlanta to Cashiers full time. They both enjoy the beautiful seasons and wonderful friends they have met in the mountains.
Fred has served on the Board of Directors for The Country Club of Sapphire for three years and in 2019 served as President. He also volunteers for Meals on Wheels and Fishes and Loaves. Fred enjoys golf, fishing, hiking and travel.
Since 1998 and until his retirement in 2017, Mr. Nowacki served as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center Foundation, and Integrated Oncology Solutions, L.L.C. located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center provides radiation therapy, diagnostic imaging services, and medical oncology management services throughout southeastern Louisiana. Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center Foundation, through its philanthropic efforts, raises both short- and long-term endowment funds to be used for the benefit of cancer patients and their families in the communities it serves. His responsibilities included revenue cycle management, accounting, tax and financial statement reporting, operational and capital budgeting, directing all investment and funds management activities, facilities and risk management.
Prior to joining Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Mr. Nowacki held senior and executive-level positions with banking institutions in the Baton Rouge area and was responsible for all accounting, tax and financial reporting, investment portfolio management, funds management, facilities, risk management, and security.