People continue to miss Barbara Hoover, who died on Oct. 15, 2018, succumbing to cancer.
Susan Kwiatek, the executive director of Glen Cove Hospital, remembers Hoover as a giving person, one who cared deeply about the community and the underserved. Liz McLanahan, a member of the North Country Garden Club and a volunteer on the hospital’s advisory council, said Hoover was her mentor, and special. A close friend, Beverly Banker, who founded the council, described Hoover as warm, an excellent public speaker and someone that she “loved to bits.”
Jim Hoover, Barbara’s husband, still marvels at the nearly 70 handwritten notes that the family received after his wife’s death at age 65. They wrote that they found her inspirational, learned by her example and most said they would miss her terribly.
Last month, Glen Cove Hospital established a $200,000 endowment named in honor of Hoover for her work on the hospital’s Volunteer Advisory Council, which she chaired from 2011 to 2018. The Barbara J. Hoover Endowment for Innovative Community Outreach Services will help the hospital develop programs to send health care practitioners to homebound local residents.
Jim Hoover, who was married to Barbara for 39 years, said he believed her commitment to the hospital began when their oldest son, Brad, burned himself in the kitchen of the family’s Mill Neck home when he was 8.
“My son was unloading the dishwasher, and was using a towel to dry any remaining water on the cups and dishes,” Jim recounted. “I was making coffee, and wanted my cup hot, so I filled it with very hot water. Bradley picked up my mug with his left hand, his right holding the dishtowel and attempted to dry it, thinking it was one of the dishes from the dishwasher. He poured the scalding hot water on himself.”
That prompted a trip to Glen Cove Hospital’s emergency room. The staff, Jim recalled, looked at his wife skeptically, separated her from Brad and took her into a windowless room to interrogate her about child abuse.
“That experience inspired Barbara to work there,” Jim said. “The typical person will write a check and mail it. She was always there.”
The hospital’s Volunteer Advisory Council is led by people living in the area, and it serves as a liaison between the hospital and the community. Kwiatek said that the hospital likes to hear input from advisory members on what they are hearing from people regarding what the facility needs to do to improve.
The members also raise money for what’s needed at the hospital. Their efforts funded the creation of an updated emergency room and critical care unit, Kwiatek said. When the hospital wanted to renovate its family medicine residency it was the advisory council that stepped in to help. Given a challenge grant of $2.5 million, the hospital had to raise $500,000. Kwiatek said it was Hoover that led the effort. “She got people to work with her,” Kwiatek said. “Barbara was a true leader, and did so gracefully.”
The 20-member council was created in 1999. Banker, its founder, asked Hoover if she would like to join the board that first year. They knew each other from Green Vale School, which their children attended.
It was a tumultuous period for the hospital, which was joining the North Shore LIJ Hospital system. Many in the community did not support the change, Banker said, worried that the hospital would close. Hospital officials thought the advisory council could serve as a bridge between it and the community. “We attended the protests when there were rallies and reached out to them,” Banker said.
Hoover, who rose through the ranks on the board, was known for her effectiveness as a fundraiser. Banker asked her to serve as chair in 2011.
“I had a good long time to see who I wanted to take over for me,” Banker said. “Barbara was outstanding, and always understood how important the hospital was to the community.”
Hoover was close to the staff, and spoke to patients often to hear about their experiences at the hospital. And, Banker said, Hoover was good at writing fundraising request letters as well.
Her skills go way back, Jim said, to when she was Barbara Higgins and worked at Citibank, in Manhattan, from 1976 to 1984 as an officer in the human resources dept. Jim, who was working with the bank’s investment management group, met Barbara there in 1978, at a party for summer interns.
“She asked me what college I was going to,” Jim recalled, laughing. “I said, ‘Miss Higgins, you are addressing an officer of the bank.’”
They married 13 months later because, as Jim is fond of saying, “She didn’t want me to get away, and I didn’t want her to get away either.”
He described her as highly organized, with a keen sense of attention to detail. Volunteering as co-chair for various local organizations, she kept the records and managed the projects. But Jim said her biggest skill was working with people.
“She was a very personable person who believed in teamwork,” Jim said. “She never had to steal the limelight.”
Barbara joined the North County Garden Club in 2001 She chaired a number of its committees, and used her graphic design skills to create the club’s website. She served as its president from 2008 to 2010.
Sealy Hopkinson, of Laurel Hollow, the club’s current president, met Hoover in 2007. “I was coming in as a new member, and had her on a huge pedestal,” she said. “She was so welcoming and encouraging. She was like a magnet.”
Hoover hosted a workshop each year in December for club members at her Muttontown home, where she and Jim moved in 2005. The group would make plant arrangements to give to nurses at a hospice center who would deliver them to patients during the holidays. Hoover made the arrangements with the hospice center, which Hopkinson said the club members valued.
“Barbara was such a kind and positive person,” Hopkinson said. “She was the head of marketing for our group, and was so talented with designs. She could make anything we did look good.”
Today Hoover continues to be missed by many in the community, and at the hospital. “I miss her guidance and support,” Kwiatek said, “and her always being a strong advocate for the hospital.”