Looking Back: Dr. Rod Hoober, the Village Dentist

Rod and Grace Hoober of Morgantown Photo by Shar Halvorsen

Rod Hoober was born Sept. 20, 1928, in New Holland, the youngest and only boy of four children. His parents were Roy Kurtz Hoober (1898 – 1971) and Edith Franz (Hess) Hoober (1899 – 1963).

He graduated from New Holland High School (now Garden Spot). He was also active in Boy Scouts and became an Eagle Scout. He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1950 and Temple University School of Dentistry in 1954. While in college, he got jobs working at the New Holland Sewage Plant and New Holland Machine Company on night shift. He says he soon realized that to achieve good grades, one needed to work hard.

In medical school, his studies soon competed with social life.

He became fascinated with a girl from back home and then, met her lovely roommate. While studying at Temple University, he fell seriously in love with his girlfriend’s roommate, a nursing student named Grace Anna Emerich from Shamokin, and broke up with his girlfriend.

Grace, one of his patients in dental school, had worked night shifts and would fall asleep in the dental chair.

He married Grace at Valley Forge Chapel Feb. 19, 1955.

He served in the Air Force as a dentist from 1954 to 1956 in Syracuse, New York. Grace gave birth to their first bundle of joy, Cynthia, in 1956. They then lived with Rod’s parents for eight months while their home and dental offices were being built at 3804 Main Street in Morgantown, where Mark (1958), Elizabeth (1964) and Allison (1971) were born.

In 1950, he had a near-death experience. He was driving over 85 miles per hour when his car spun out of control and ran into a brick wall. In another dangerous instance, he got off the turnpike just before his wheel came off. Dr. Hoober survived a number of life-threatening accidents, as well as Prostate and kidney cancer.

His mother died in 1963. Anxiety, guilt and tension built up. He started using tranquillizers, but they were soon no longer effective. He realized he was “going to pieces.” He says he knew that there must be something better to this life.

He found himself listening to Christian radio. It wasn’t until 1970 that he says he prayed, “Lord, I want all of You and for You to have all of me possible, even if it means going to Africa.” He says the Lord gave him a 10 year high free from fear. It was surely a mountain-top moment for Dr. Hoober.

In the 1980s, some hardships occurred, but Hoober says he knew God is faithful and knew he had to grow more in the Lord. In reading the scriptures, he says he realized that God is sovereign and is the blessed controller of all events. In reading the Bible, he says he was impressed with what Job, Joseph, Peter and Paul went through and how they persevered to trust the Lord. Jesus gave him a love for all people, no matter what their faults, he says, and helped him to learn to love himself despite his faults.

When the Hoobers were active in the Morgantown Methodist Church, he was a lay leader, Sunday school teacher, Sunday school superintendent and singer in the choir. He was an elder when active in Grace Full Gospel Fellowship in Elverson, and a greeter and part of the tape ministry when active in Hopewell Mennonite Church (later Hopewell Christian Fellowship). Over the years, Hoober was on the boards of the Twin Valley Swimming Pool, Pennsylvania Counseling Center in Harrisburg, Hopewell Sharing Plan and Homosexuals Anonymous in Reading, as well as the Administrative Board of the Morgantown Methodist Church.

The Hoobers enjoyed participating in Lay Witness Missions and attending Jesus Festivals. Rod has stated his greatest desire is to see everyone come to a fulfilled living in Christ.

In their early days in Morgantown, Rod was called the Village Dentist, as he was the only one in the Tri County area for years. Exams and cleanings were $3, fillings $5. When David Kurtz operated the town’s water supply, the bill was $29 per year. Grace washed, starched and ironed Rod’s dental jackets, along with ironing the patients’ linen towels (napkins).

Fast food was not available at the time. When the Hoober family got hungry for hoagies, they would drive to Screpesi’s on Lancaster Avenue in Reading. East Morgantown had no street lights, Hoober recalls, and no traffic lights existed between Blue Ball and Route 100.

The blizzard of 1958 produced 4 feet of snow, leaving the community with no electricity for days. Eight hundred people were stranded at the Brandywine station on the turnpike. The Hoobers still didn’t have any storm doors and the snow blew in around the cracks and deposited snow on the new hardwood floors of their house. The milk lady (Marie Miller Fick at Sunnyside Dairy) was a hearty soul who made a great effort to get milk to families with children, Rod remembers.

Rod says he knew that if he did excellent dentistry, he would help people to be healthy.

Cynthia, married to Michael Santiago, lives in Valley Forge; John Mark lives in Shoemakersville; Elizabeth Edith lives in Morgantown; and Allison Grace, married to Mike Ponsell, lives in Morgantown. Allison and Mike have two children.

Rod and Grace’s 58 years of marriage has been a joy and a journey, he says, including starting a dental practice, meeting the people of the community, loving the patients, volunteering dentistry in a village with no electricity or running water in Guatemala, lay witness missions, teen challenge ministry, raising their own four children and meeting the challenges of daily living.

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