On the Passing of Lou Henry Hoover

Lou Henry Hoover passed away 01/07/1944 – funeral was held in St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York. Hoover, Herbert Jr., and Allan in the front row

Lou Henry Hoover died on Friday January 7, 1944 at the Waldorf-Astoria suite that she shared with her husband Herbert Hoover.  The following Monday more than 1500 mourners attended her memorial service at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.  There was no eulogy.  After the service, the Hoover family took the mortal remains of Lou Henry Hoover to Palo Alto for internment near to her home overlooking the Stanford campus and close to the mountain trails that she loved to hike.

While the service for Mrs. Hoover included no eulogy, her lifetime of achievement was not allowed to pass without comment.  Many friends, colleagues, and strangers whose lives felt the impact of Lou Hoover offered testimonials.  Long-time Stanford friend Will Irwin noted that Lou had nearly unlimited tolerance for human frailties in others, but she did not tolerate them in herself.

Secretary and friend Dare Stark McMullin offered moving descriptions of Lou Henry Hoover’s willingness to help others in times of need—during the Boxer Rebellion, in London at the outset of World War I, assisting her husband’s food relief via the Commission for Relief in Belgium, and as First Lady.  Lou never sought public acknowledgment for this assistance, preferring clandestine acts of kindness.  McMullin concluded: ‘The person I’d like most to meet in the middle of an earthquake is Mrs. Hoover.’

Despite her frequent protestations that, ‘Goodness me, I wouldn’t know what to do with a daughter;’ Lou Henry Hoover had, in essence, 840,000 ‘daughters’ in the Girl Scouts at the time of her death.  Her deep involvement with Girl Scouts sparked troops and leaders across the nation to offer tributes and memorials.  One especially apt tribute was the dedication of the Azalea Trails in the San Jacinto Mountains in California.  This was appropriate given Lou’s lifelong habit of hiking California trails.  She kept a child’s love of the outdoors as a place to explore.  Because of this zest, one scout leader described Lou thusly: ‘She died the youngest woman of her years that I have ever known.’

Many more such tributes and testimonials can be found in boxes 138 and 139 of the Subject Files of the Lou Henry Hoover papers.

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