John Cleveland Hooker, 80, of Houston, TX, died Friday, September 27, 2019, following a rapid decline related to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. John was predeceased by his parents, James Loy Hooker and Lena Burford Hooker. He is survived by his son Jay Hooker and his husband Rick Ankrom, his daughter Jonna Hooker Whitman and her husband Doug Whitman, two grandchildren, Meredith Whitman and Reed Whitman, and his brother and sister-in-law, Gary and Annette Hooker.
John was born in Terrell, TX, and grew up in Dallas, attending Sunset High School. He graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington and was awarded a PhD in electrical engineering from Oklahoma State University. John resided in Houston for many years, serving as a faculty member at Houston Baptist University (HBU), where he was the resident renaissance man, teaching in various disciplines, from physiology, math, and physics, to history of science and liberal arts. Also in Houston, John found a spiritual family at Covenant Church that nourished, stimulated, and challenged him. He deeply valued the relationships he formed over his 50 years at Covenant, sustaining them over the years and across long distances.
John always claimed to hate the heat and humidity in Houston, yet somehow he was able to train for many marathons by running with his HBU buddies in midday heat. Qualifying for and completing the Boston Marathon was a proud accomplishment!
Seeking to escape the Houston heat, John travelled extensively, usually to Yellowstone National Park and also to many other national parks in the American West, where he would share his love of the outdoors with students, friends, and family. John delighted in being on the road, driving from Houston to British Columbia and back, with numerous stops to reconnect with friends and family along the way.
With an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, John read extensively, never going anywhere without a book or three. On trips to his favorite bookstores, he was never able to just browse, usually leaving with several titles. He was equally passionate about newspapers, crosswords, and sudokus. John always had a packet of colored pens, mechanical pencils, and erasers at the ready, making notes or working puzzles, engrossed for hours on end! While he often had his head down in a book, John also cherished the discussions and debates he had with others about his readings, over coffee or a meal, or in group settings like his theology group and Rice University’s Scientia.
After retirement, John was lucky to combine several of his passions, moving to Yellowstone to work in bookstores throughout the park. He thoroughly enjoyed helping visitors plan their adventures, making many dear friends, and living and working in his favorite place in the world! He spent many summers as well as a few winters in Yellowstone, when he might snowshoe to work, even in his 70’s!
John’s wanderlust never wavered, and in his later years, he continued to take car trips as long as he was able. He loved heading to the mountains to visit friends, and he also cherished trips to Nashville, TN, where he watched his grandchildren grow and thrive. He especially loved venturing to the downtown Nashville Public Library with his grandchildren to read and attend puppet shows. Wherever he went, John could often be spotted wearing orange, proudly sporting an Astros shirt and his beloved OSU hat.
John was a kind and gentle man, judging no one and welcoming all. He lived a full life, at his own pace and purpose. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends. The family wishes to thank his caregivers, CeCe Bonner and Joanne Maxie, for the loving care they provided John during his last few weeks.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Covenant Church, https://www.covenanthouston.org/giving.html or Nashville Public Library Wishing Chair Productions, the library’s resident puppet troupe, http://nplf.org/donate/.
A memorial service is planned for ten thirty in the morning on Saturday, October 5, 2019, at Covenant Church, 4949 Caroline Street, Houston. Reception to follow.