Burnet has lost one of its most ardent supporters with the passing of John W. Hoover, who died Sunday, Dec. 20, at the age of 88.
Friends and colleagues remembered Hoover as a champion not only for the city but for all of its residents through his relentless and untiring efforts to bring better housing, health and educational opportunities to his beloved community.
“I don’t know how you sum up everything John has done for this community in just a few words,” said City Manager David Vaughn. “In the 20 years that I have known him, he has done so much for this community and never asked for anything in return.”
“There is no way to measure the impact that John Hoover has had on this community,” Burnet Consolidated ISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett added. “John’s contributions to this community and to thousands of scholarship recipients will be felt for generations to come.”
“John Hoover was a true visionary,” said Burnet Mayor Crista Goble Bromley. “His love of the Burnet community was evident in the many philanthropic deeds that he has done to help the community over the years. I doubt anyone really knows the extent of the things he did to help his adopted hometown except maybe his wife, Vivian.”
“Mr. Hoover and his name are well-known throughout Burnet and beyond,” said Kim Winkler, executive director of the Burnet Chamber of Commerce. “You can see and feel his influence in almost every area of our community.
“From business and economic development, civic and educational opportunities and everything in between — his impact and leadership through the years is extraordinarily wide-reaching. Burnet wouldn’t be Burnet without John Hoover. He will be missed but his legacy will always be remembered.”
Hoover’s entrance into this world was nearly as notable as his life. He was born March 10, 1932, during a rare 10-inch snowstorm, in Hoover Valley in rural Burnet County, the third of nine children born to the late Martin L. and Bessie N. Lyda Hoover.
When Hoover was eight years old, his family moved to Burnet. Four years later, his father suffered a debilitating heart attack, which forced John to assume some very heavy responsibilities at the ripe old age of 12.
At the age of 16 in 1948, Hoover would end up dropping out of Burnet High School in order to help support his family. Though he would return to school the following autumn and eventually graduate in 1951, the brief sabbatical from Burnet High would leave a lasting impact on John about the importance of getting an education.
It was at Burnet High School that John would meet Vivian Mallett, the love of his life. The high school sweethearts were smitten with each other and during a school field trip to Fredericksburg, they snuck away from the other students and sought out a justice of the peace, who married them on Nov. 6, 1950.
Because married students were not permitted at BHS, the couple kept their impromptu nuptials a secret until after they graduated the following spring. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last month prior to John’s passing.
After graduation from Burnet High, John and Vivian Hoover moved to Elgin, where John learned Morse Code and began managing railroad stations throughout Texas. While working fulltime for the railroad, Hoover would also work construction during the evenings to make extra money and hone a craft that would serve him well throughout his life.
While at Burnet High school he met Vivian Mallett. They married (secretly) in November 1950. In 1951 they moved to Elgin, TX where John learned Morse Code in order to manage railroad stations across Texas. Even while working full time for the railroad, he continued in construction during the evenings.
When the Hoovers moved back to Burnet in 1958, John bought an interest in a local lumberyard on Texas 29 and later became full owner of Hoover Building Supply, which outgrew its former location (where the First Staste Bank of Burnet parking lot is now) and relocated to its current 500 E. Polk St. address.
He would also launch Hoover Construction Company, which built a six-unit apartment complex in Burnet in 1969 — one of the company’s first successful projects. Other commercial and multifamily residential developments in and around Burnet would follow, including the first Burnet Housing Authority property, Hamilton Creek Manor, in 1972, as Hoover especially took an interest in seeing that those on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale also had affordable, reliable housing.
In 1981, John would begin Hamilton Valley Management Inc., which would grow from having three properties and a single part-time employee into one of the largest Rural Rental Housing Association members in the state of Texas, with an inventory of more than 90 properties in 65 cities throughout Texas, as well as a home office staff of 22 employees.
In the early 1980s, Hoover would serve as president of the Rotary Club of Burnet and helped set the precedent that the organization was “not about lunch every Wednesday, but it was about living the motto of ‘Service Above Self’ said McBurnett.
It was during his tenure as Rotary Club president that Hoover also helped found the Hill Country Community Foundation in 1983 to help further the education of BCISD graduates. In its first year, the foundation awarded four $500 scholarships for a total gift of $2,000.
To date, HCCF has awarded more than 3,800 scholarships totaling $5,904,051 and distributes more than $320,000 in scholarships to more than 150 deserving students each year “because of his vision of what coud be,” McBurnett said of Hoover.
“That’s more than 3,800 young people getting a head start towards a degree or certification because John wanted the Burnet community to invest in its young people. In my opinion, there is no greater investment to be made,” McBurnett said.
“I was lucky to know John the past nine years, and serve with him in Rotary and on the Hill Country Community Foundation Board. I welcomed the fact that he greeted me anytime we saw each other by calling me ‘school teacher.’
Hoover was also involved with the Burnet County Hospital Authority, which built the present Ascension Seton Highland Lakes Hospital and operated it before the facility was sold to Seton in 1997. Hoover supported the Highland Lakes Health Fund and the many donations he and Vivian made helped finance a number of improvements that have kept the hospital up to date with the latest technology.
In November 2017, Burnet City Council voted to repave and rename a portion of County Road 340A “John W. Hoover Parkway.” A dedication of the completed project was celebrated in April 2019 with John and Vivian Hoover and their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren among those in attendance.
“A friend of mine quoted a famous planner the other day who stated that the difference between vibrant small communities and others are a handful of benevolent people that only want what is best for their community,” said Vaughn.
“John was certainly one of those people. John was always there to help in any way he could and always put Burnet first. He and his family have done more for this community than most will ever know. Burnet is a better place because of John Hoover.”
Bromley said she will especially remember Hoover’s dry sense of humor which could catch someone unprepared offguard — “so much so that it took a minute to figure out if he was serious or not.
“Then he would spread that wide grin and most likely give you a head knuckle,” Bromley said. “He will be long remembered as one of the most treasured members of this community.”
“John Hoover was a true visionary ... I doubt anyone really knows the extent of the things he did to help his adopted hometown except maybe his wife,Vivian.”
— Crista Goble Bromley Burnet Mayor