January 14: John Van Rensselaer Hoff (1920)

The interior walls of many historic Episcopal churches are laden with memorial plaques. Somewhere along the line at Epiphany, it was determined to refrain from such displays. There are two exceptions though and one is on the east nave wall – “In Blessed Memory of John Van Rensselaer Hoff.” Colonel Hoff spent a lifetime caring for others. Like his father before him, Hoff became a military surgeon. Both were trailblazers – his father planned the medical details of the first American purpose-built hospital ship and he was a recognized pioneer in Army field medicine.

Colonel Hoff founded the Army Hospital Corps in 1898, served as Deputy Surgeon General of the Army, returned for service during World War I and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for service at Wounded Knee. After retirement from the Army, Hoff spent the last years of his life in Washington, where he served on the vestry at Epiphany. The plaque in Hoff’s memory concludes, “His life was devoted to the service of God, his country, and humanity. A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ.”

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