April 2003

Art Hoekstra -
Giving Something Extra to
Humanity All of His Adult Life

by Joseph H. Radder

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Art Hoekstra has never stopped giving of himself to help make life better for his fellow humans. For example, soon after his retirement seventeen years ago, he began working as an unpaid volunteer to pass along expertise in his long-time hobby of woodworking to patients served by the New York State Office of Mental Health.

In a citation given to him by the OMH in 2002, James L. Stone, Commissioner, said “The spirit of volunteerism is the story of Art Hoekstra’s life. Mr. Hoekstra has parlayed his talent and energy into a very valuable vocational service for those (mental health patients) willing to use their hearts and hands to create both beautiful and practical objects”. Art’s Amherst home is filled with handsome furniture pieces which he has made over the years. Friends and relatives enjoy bluebirds in their backyards thanks to the bluebird houses built by Art Hoekstra. The patients he taught have been fortunate to have such a talented woodworker as their mentor. In addition to skills, he gives them love.

One of the mental health patients he helped, sent an e-mail to the OMH stating “We call Mr. Hoekstra ‘Pops’. He has given me pride in myself and in my abilities. I can look around my house and it is furnished by projects “Pops’ helped me make. He will always hold a very special place in my heart.”

Art is twelve days older than the Pope, born in May 1920 in Wittenberg, Wisconsin. However he’s much younger looking than the pontiff. In fact, he’s a championship golfer who plays whenever the teams meets.

“My father was raised in Holland”, he told us, “he was a farmer and a well-driller. My mother was a native of Wittenberg. Art and his wife of 57 years, Beatrice (nee Tiefenthaler) still love Wisconsin and go back there to visit every chance they get.

Art tells us Wisconsin people think Buffalo winters are mild. “I can remember one full week when the temperature never went above zero in Wisconsin. An old-timer told me ‘it’ll be warm by the 4th of July.’” Sound familiar?

The Hoekstras have four adult children and eight grandchildren. Their daughter Barbara Hoekstra is an occupational therapist in Cleveland, Marcia Gunther is a physical education major and a substitute teacher in the Williamsville school system. David is in sales for Pitney-Bowes, covering western New York from Batavia to Rochester. Their youngest son, Richard, is a computer expert and comptroller for Columbus-McKinnon. Both David and Richard live in Clarence.

Hoekstra attended elementary and high school in Wittenberg, Wisconsin, then worked his way through the University of Wisconsin where he earned a BS cum laude in Chemical Engineering . He did graduate studies in air pollution control administration at Penn State in 1968, at the National Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta in1970, and at Canisius College in 1978. He holds a New York State license as a Professional Engineer and is a principal public health engineer for the New York State Health Department.

He began his career as a public health engineer in Madison, Wisconsin while still in col1ege. He then spent seven years as assistant chief engineer at Niagara Alkali, eleven years as a sales engineer for the T.F. Killen Company, and was a consulting engineer for Kinetics Inc in 1965 and 1966. Hoekstra then spent ten years with the Erie County Health Department, where he was a director in charge of developing and establishing an air pollution control division. And from 1976 to 1978 he was director of environmental control for the county’s department of environment and planning. Later he was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Environment for the County. In 1978 he moved back into the private sector and became vice president in charge of environmental and process control plus personnel safety and the disposal of hazardous waste for Newco Chemical Waste Systems Inc. He retired in 1985.

Art Hoekstra’s life in retirement has been anything but dormant, however. In addition to his work with the mental health patients he has been a golf champion for two consecutive years at the Oakwood Country Club. In addition, he’s a writer in scientific journals. One of his best-known articles in the field of air pollution is an article based on his presentation at the 27th Annual Conference of the Instrument Society of America entitled “The Wickedness of Air Pollution Measurements.” Hoekstra holds three patents, two on desulfurization of flue gases and one on energy and water recovery from flue gases.

He has a wall full of awards and honors in his Amherst home, and is affiliated with six different professional societies. He has been local and area chairman for the Boy Scouts of America, is a past president of the Toastmasters Club, was finance committee chairman of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Eggertsville, taught senior boys in Sunday School for over 30 years, has been a Community Chest captain and a director of the American Lung Association. He is also active in the Torch Club, where he is a past-president and was the club’s secretary for over 10 years.

Forever Young and Active? Indeed! Art Hoekstra fits this description as well as anybody we know.



Joseph H. Radder is a freelance writer.

 

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