He did it because he loved it. That was what every one of Elmer Hoke’s Meals on Wheels ‘co-workers’ said of the man, days after he passed away at the age of 95.

Hoke had been a fixture of Natrona County Meals on Wheels for more than 20 years. Many people begin volunteering for organizations like Meals on Wheels after retirement, simply because they want something to do. But, for Elmer Hoke, it was something much more than just “a way to pass the time.” That’s why, for the majority of his 20 years at Meals on Wheels, he drove every single day, Monday through Friday.

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Whether it was because of his work ethic, or just the simple joy he derived from the job, Hoke was the unmitigated MVP of Meals on Wheels since 2000.

But work ethic and joy were nothing new to the man who was born in Casper, Wyoming on November 26, 1925. Hoke grew up in Casper and spent the majority of his life there. He graduated from Natrona County High School before joining the U.S. Navy during WWII. While there, he was assigned to aircraft carrier USS Essex for the duration of the war, participating in 10 major battles and invasions. Hoke received a number of medals before finally being discharged. After that, he returned home to Casper.

Hoke worked at Texaco for 35 years, before retiring in 1981. After that, he enjoyed some must-needed downtime, doing the things he loved the most. He hunted, fished, backpacked, and even drove down to Mexico and back, simply because he could. Hoke lived life to the fullest and, for him, Meals on Wheels was just another thing he simply enjoyed doing.

Jaime Loveall, the Executive Director for Meals on Wheels, said that “Elmer was always such a pleasure to be around. He was there before even I started working there and his reputation preceded himself.”

Hoke’s reputation, if you asked anybody, was a good one. He was always good for an encouraging word, a laugh or two, and countless stories.

Tim Stark was a friend of Elmer’s, as well as a fellow volunteer. The two met at Meals and Wheels and instantly developed a friendship, based on a mutual love of sports.

“We met 10 or 12 years ago, and we shared a common interest in sports,” Stark said. “We traveled down to Laramie quite a bit to football and basketball games and then, once a year, we’d go out to Las Vegas to the Mountain West tournament.”

The two bonded over sports and over their volunteering. Oftentimes, Stark would offer to help take Hoke on his route, when the winter roads were too bad for Hoke’s smaller car. Hoke inspired his friend, as well as all of the other volunteers and employees at Meals on Wheels.

“He motivated me,” Stark said of his friend, “because I could see what an 85-year-old man was doing, and I thought I should be able to keep up.”

The two worked together for 10-plus years and became very close.

“He had a place in Encampment that he would go to a couple times every summer,” he said. “Sometimes I would go with him and help him mow or do other chores. We had a lot of good memories, the two of us.”

And, throughout that friendship, there was always Meals on Wheels.

“We basically considered him to be a part of our staff,” Loveall laughed. “He was there every day. He was a constant. And he always had a kind word. He was a staple of Natrona County Meals on Wheels. He was indescribable and he is irreplaceable.”

Stark said that, before the pandemic hit, the two would often socialize with those to whom they brought food.

“A lot of times, we would go into peoples’ houses and drink coffee while we waited for that day’s routes to come out. Elmer drove every day, for as long as I knew him. Monday through Friday, five days a week. And when Meals on Wheels put on their annual Bubbles, Baubles, and Beans fundraising banquet, Elmer was always voted number one, as far as routes driven.”

Hoke was a fixture of Meals on Wheels for two decades, but he positively impacted people before, during, and after his time with the organization. Even judging by the comments on the Bustard & Jacoby Funeral Home website, Hoke left a lasting, positive impression on all those he met.

Kim and Jim Mallorey commented that they “remember spending time with Elmer in Encampment enjoying the Woodchoppers Jamboree. We also enjoyed hunting, camping, and fishing with him. He will be missed but remembered fondly.”

Dorothy Reimann said that she “certainly miss Elmer. He was such a good man. I met Elmer when I was in high school. I remember him as being such a nice man and very knowledgeable. He never spoke unkind words about anyone. More recently I delivered Meals on Wheels with Elmer. He was always dependable, and for many years delivered almost every day. This world was a better place because of Elmer. He will truly be missed. I will cherish all of my memories of him.”

Hoke’s niece, Emalee, summed it up best by saying that she “hope[s) to lead a life as selfless and full of kindness as my Great Uncle Elmer.”

Of course, nobody can sum up Elmer Hoke’s life better than, well, himself.

Years ago, Elmer wrote about himself and about the people closest to him.

“In my life I met one very special friend; a very dedicated and religious one, plus a pleasure to have in a life span,” Hoke wrote. “This is what I think is necessary in everyone’s life and the compassion to share time with. So with the blessings from my Lord, I wish you all a beautiful and full life as I have as my own.

After retiring for 30 years and being in my 80’s plus being in good health, I still enjoy my connection with sports, fishing, and hunting. My times associating with my friends and relatives was very special. I delivered Meals on Wheels for many years and fully saw the problems of the elderly and confinement existing for most.  My association with the staff and employees of Meals on Wheels was a part of my life I cherished. My many conversations with fellow volunteers in my daily association were special also.”

If a life, a legacy, is determined by the impact one makes on others, then Elmer Hoke’s legacy is etched not only in stone, but on the hearts of countless others.

 

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