Dr. Agnes Hoeger
Monday, November 11, 2013
Good Samaritan homes exemplify “North Dakota Nice.” In 1922, the Reverend August Hoeger saw
the need for such a facility and opened the first in Arthur, North Dakota. His daughter Agnes
was impressed by her father’s example, and when she graduated from high school at fifteen, she entered college to prepare for work as a medical missionary. After ten years of study, she was ready. Dr. Agnes Hoeger traveled by land and sea for fifty-one days, then stepped off a ship in Madang, New Guinea on this date in 1935, beginning thirty years of medical work in that country.
But Agnes’s first visit was cut short when she had to accompany an ill co-worker back to the
states. Rather than return to New Guinea immediately, she fulfilled numerous speaking requests
and studied tropical medicine in London. When she returned to Madang, she found the hospital now had electricity, allowing for lights in surgery and an x-ray machine!
With WWII looming in August, 1940, Agnes was transferred to nearby Finschafen,
with hopes the village would be ignored by both the Japanese and Allies. But by February 1942, all
missionaries were evacuated. Walking eighty miles at night through dangerous mountain
jungles, they avoided detection by Japanese bombers.
Unable to return to New Guinea during the war, she came home and was commissioned to the
US Army Medical Corps in Peru. In New Guinea, she had helped eradicate yaws, a tropical infection. In Peru she educated the people to decrease hookworm and malaria.
In 1946, she finally returned to New Guinea for a full term, rebuilding and “making
do” with the remnants of war. She was particularly heartened when natives became Christians
and ceased their savage clan wars.
On furlough in the 1950s, Agnes gave speeches and earned a Master’s Degree in public health,
then returned to New Guinea for one last term. In 1965 she returned home to care for her aging
parents while serving as director of medical services at a Good Samaritan home. She earned her
seventh post-secondary degree, then traveled the country by bus, teaching record-keeping to
Good Samaritan personnel.
At 72 Agnes technically retired, but she went on to serve with the Peace Corps in Tonga. Back in the States, she continued speaking and doing Good Samaritan medical records work. She made one last move to Good Samaritan home in Kissimmee, Florida, where she died at the age of 82.
Dakota Datebook written by Karen Horsley
“The Story of Agnes,” by August J. and Elizabeth Hoeger,
1997, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society
The Fargo Forum, March 12, 1942