Henry Hoover, former St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church priest, dies

Rev. Dr. Henry Hoover

The Rev. Dr. Henry H. Hoover, 83, and longtime Roseville resident, died at home on Sunday, Aug. 3, after a two-year battle with inoperable liver cancer.

“Sunday is an appropriate day for a priest to die,” his wife Jean wrote on his Caring Bridge website.

“We both feel that he has been given two extra years and we are grateful for that.... We have good family and friend support and many prayers are being said by many people,” she added.

Funeral services were held Aug. 7 at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Minneapolis.

Every opportunity to help

In his long career as an Episcopal priest, Hoover served at St. Mark’s Cathedral, as rector (senior priest) at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Roseville from 1967 to 1984, and at Christ Episcopal Church in Woodbury. Later, he was an interim priest and was chosen by the bishop to mentor and counsel other priests.

St. Christopher’s was a fledging church when Hoover arrived, said his son, Tim. His father set up programs to get parishioners involved, including re-energizing the youth group. This resonated with a lot of people, and the parish, which draws members from much of northern Ramsey County, grew to be the second-largest in Minnesota.

“Yet, it was never about him -- he never made himself bigger than anyone else. He was also an astute person about human nature and about business,” Tim said.

After Hoover’s death, many mourners from St. Christopher’s talked about how much Hoover was loved and respected.

One woman recalled that after her husband died, leaving her with a baby and a toddler, she called St. Christopher’s and Hoover quickly made a visit to comfort her and help set up a memorial service, though he didn’t even know her at the time.

Hoover’s daughter Martha said one time he was driving to work and saw a young boy who was a church member walking to school in tears after missing the bus, so he picked him up. The boy never forgot that “Father Hoover drove me to school!”

She said another friend had fond memories of being able to take his go-cart over to the church and drive in the church parking lot. “It was like a race track! How cool is Father Hoover?”

“Henry was a gifted preacher and a loving and compassionate spiritual leader,” said parishioner Karin Brown. “He was extremely intelligent and well-read and that came through in his sermons, but his kindness and humility and deep faith in Jesus Christ were also very apparent. 

“He loved opera ... but he also had a lighter and humorous side.  When my friend Debbie Brown and I were to be the music leaders of a church Cursillo weekend, Henry taught us the song, ‘Drop Kick Me, Jesus, Through the Goalposts of Life,’” she added.

“Henry was a very wise person, and that is very rare,” said long-time St. Christopher’s parishioner Jim Richards, adding that Hoover created a “welcoming and spiritually healthy congregation. ... And a number of priests and bishops came out of St. Christopher’s parish during his years there.”

Most honored

As the church embraced change over the years, so did Henry, who welcomed women into the priesthood. “Henry would be pleased to know the number of female clergy at his funeral,” said Judith Goff of Roseville.

Hoover’s granddaughter Rebecca Krocak said during the funeral service that Hoover taught his grandchildren to appreciate beauty and challenged them to be better people. He was wise, kind and a man of integrity, she said.

She added that he was the smartest man she had ever known and even correctly answered the final question on the TV show “Jeopardy!” just two days before he died.

Tim said during the service that his father was incredibly modest, a ballast to those who were hurting and the most honored and decorated priest in the Diocese of Minnesota.

Hoover was a graduate of the University of Minnesota and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church in 1955 and received an honorary doctorate from Seabury-Western in 1979.

“Probably no other priest of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota had more influence...He mentored new clergy and pastored to people wherever he went. He played a mean hand of bridge, had a wonderful sense of humor, and loved to tell stories about God’s work in the world,” recalled Canon Gary Gleason, retired from the bishop’s office.

“Henry had the Gospel of Jesus Christ in his heart, the love of the church in his head and the witness in his actions to live out both successfully. The number of people who still recall his presence and holiness at times of great joy and great sorrow is legendary,” Gleason added.

Hoover is survived by his wife Jean; children Tim Hoover (Teresa), Martha Hoover, Matthew Hoover, stepson Jeffrey Hislop (Jan); 15 grandchildren and one great-grandhild. Interment was at Roselawn Cemetery. Memorials are preferred to Episcopal Homes, 90 Lynhurst St. St. Paul, 55104 or the donor’s choice.

Pamela O’Meara can be reached at pomeara@lillienews.com.


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