Dakota Datebook

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

 

Sources:

 

“The Story of Agnes,” by August J. and Elizabeth Hoeger,

1997, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society

 

The Fargo Forum, March 12, 1942

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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