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The Dash Between: Oberlin doctor George Hoover put patients at ease

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George Hoover, a family practitioner in Oberlin for nearly 40 years, made house calls, sometimes bartered for payment and kept his patients and their loved ones in feeling good.

“Back in the early days, I realized he was a country doctor in a sort,” said Roy Ebihara, a retired optometrist who rented office space at George’s Physicians in Family Practice building on West Lorain Street. “Many elderly people in rural areas really could not afford to pay medical bills. They would often barter and bring produce. He would take that in payment. It was a throwback to yesteryear.”

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The Oberlin osteopath, who died June 9, 2011, at age 89, had a calming effect on his patients.

“He never ever got excited, never got rattled,” Ebihara said. “He would whistle in a low whistle tone and be very nonchalant about things. He was a doctor that made you feel comfortable. People walked out of his office feeling like a million bucks.”

Yet George wasn’t after the big bucks. He rented space to Ebihara for a bargain-basement price until the optometrist built up his practice.

The Dash Between: About this feature

The dates of birth and death that appear like bookends on a tombstone do not matter as much as the dash between those dates.

Award-winning writer Alana Baranick has made her living writing about the dash between. She’s focusing on Lorain and Medina counties and those who have made our area the unique and interesting place it is. Look for her stories on alternating Sundays and visit www.chroniclet.com to find additional photographs.

The Dash Between is scheduled to appear twice a month in The Chronicle-Telegram. To suggest a story or make a comment, contact Baranick at abaranick@chroniclet.com or (440) 731-8340.

Today, Alana Baranick examines the Dash Between Nov. 19, 1921, when George Hoover was born near Johnstown, Pa., and June 9, 2011, when the retired Oberlin osteopath died at age 89.

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“He knew it was going to take me time to get started,” Ebihara said. “He was not intent on making money. It wasn’t about making money. It was about caring for people.”

He was born Nov. 19, 1921, in Dale Boro, Pa., which is part of the Johnstown metropolitan area. His father taught and served as an administrator in the local schools.

George was around 5 years old when his mother died on Christmas Day.

“He didn’t want anyone else to lose their mother on Christmas Day or any other day,” said his son, Doug. “He decided to become a doctor, and that’s what he did.”

George, the middle of three siblings, excelled academically. He skipped second grade and graduated from high school at age 16. He went on to attend the University of Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he graduated at age 23.

“He was like the original Doogie Howser,” his son said.

While serving his internship at Bashline Hospital in Grove City, Pa., he met Evelyn “Bobbie” Horam. She’d had her appendix removed, and George handled her follow-up care.

They fell in love, were married July 5, 1946, and raised five children: Doug, Candace, Andrea, Robin and Brett (who died in a traffic accident in 2004).

Bobbie, past president of the Oberlin Golf Club’s Ladies Association and Oberlin’s first Welcome Wagon hostess, died Sept. 8, 2010, at age 86.

George’s career path went through Erie, Pa., and Lakewood before it took him to Oberlin around 1948 to take over the practice of a physician who had died. Being an osteopath, who had a holistic, part chiropractic and preventative approach to medicine, created some obstacles for him.

“Osteopathy was considered kind of a cult and not really accepted,” his son said. “When he moved to Oberlin, he was not allowed to practice at Allen Memorial (Hospital). He took his patients to Amherst Hospital.”

Allen administrators welcomed him to their hospital after becoming aware of his large patient load. George later served on Allen’s executive committee.

“He followed his patients when they came to Welcome Nursing Home - my family business - for around 30 years,” Heidi Freas said. “After he retired, he maintained his medical license so that he could remain on our quality assurance committee and cover for our medical director when he went on vacations.

“He whistled all of the time, when he was walking, working. It was a very significant trademark of his.”

After retiring in the 1980s, George served as a Lorain County deputy coroner under Drs. Robert Thomas and Paul Matus, volunteered at the Lorain County Free Clinic and made several trips to Third World countries as a Christian missionary physician.

After his first mission trip to Dominican Republic in 1987, George told a reporter that he was taken aback by the devastating poverty, lack of medical care and how those things affected children.

“Nearly all the children had parasites,” he said. “They were thin, their eyes were expressionless, their abdomens were very swollen. They just had no spark in their appearance.”

He served his local community as a member of the Oberlin Charter Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals. He was a past president and founding member of the Oberlin Kiwanis Club. He sang in the choir and was a lay leader at Oberlin First United Methodist Church.

George served on the Oberlin Board of Education, while his children attended the Oberlin schools. He was school board president for 15 years in the 1960s and ’70s.

He also helped establish Lorain County Joint Vocational School “for kids who couldn’t get a college education,” said his daughter, Robin Shaffer. “They could at least get an education where they could work.”

George, a past president of the LCJVS, also got personally involved in the school’s program to train high school students for health careers by offering on-the-job training at his medical office.

“He did so much around the community, but very quietly,” Ebihara said. “He never brought attention to himself.”

Contact Alana Baranick at (440) 731-8340 or abaranick@chroniclet.com.

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