During Sol Figueiredo’s first visit to a dental museum tucked in the mountains of Pennsylvania, she did not expect to be overcome with emotion.
When the Brazilian interior designer and architect walked past a dental operatory representing the 1900-1940 era, her eyes filled with tears.
Sol Figueiredo, who recently joined the CenterPoint Design staff of Benco Dental at its Orange County, California location, stopped in her tracks on a tour of the company’s home office in Pittston, Pa.
What caught her eye? Dental instruments similar to those used by her grandmother nearly 90 years ago in Brazil.
Dr. Margarida de Souza Menezes de Figueiredo was the only female dentist in her graduating class in 1928, and the first female dentist in the Brazilian city of Recife Pernambuco.
“I feel so close to her,” said Sol Figueiredo, of her paternal grandmother.
“She graduated in 1928 from dental school, and I’m in her world. It is so inspiring.”
Sol noted that her grandmother (shown above), in addition to establishing a dental practice and raising three children with her husband, earned national recognition in Brazil as a musician and composer.
“In 1954, she won a competition and her music was featured on the radio. During an interview they asked her how a woman in her time could be a dentist, a composer, drive a motorcycle?”
Sol explained, “If there was something in her way, it wasn’t a problem, because she was very focused. She didn’t care what people said about her. She just lived her life intensely.”
Though Dr. Margarida died 12 years ago at the age of 98, Sol recalls the vibrancy with which her grandmother lived even in later years, when she resided with Sol’s parents and siblings in their home.
At age 18, Sol admired her 88-year-old grandmother’s zest for life.
“She was always singing, reciting poems and telling people stories. It’s something that never leaves my mind: She never felt old.”
Mirroring that energy, Sol, by age 28, had earned degrees in architecture and interior design from the Instituto Medotista Bennett College, collaborated with noted architects Andrea Chicharo and the late Eduardo Pinho, and established a successful design firm in Rio de Janeiro: Sol Figueiredo Interiors.
She relocated to the United States in 2005, where she met her husband Blue Michael Plante. They live today today in Corona, California with their daughter Yasmin, 5.
After her departure from Brazil, Sol took heart when her father, Fernando Antonio Menezes de Figueiredo, told her, “You’re like my mom, you’re not afraid to go away to learn.”
Sol explained,”I’m the first generation of my family in America,”
In her new position with Benco Dental’s CenterPoint Design team, Sol said she finds a unique opportunity to channel the legacy of her grandmother, Dr. Margarida de Souza Menezes.
“I’m proud that I’m going to be working in her field. I just think, ‘If she was alive today and young, what would she would be capable of doing?'”