(1940 - )
Rod Hock grew up in a small town in Nebraska, gaining a degree from Hastings College before attending optometry school in Chicago. He’d decided on a career right out of high school, pushing through at an accelerated pace with many science-oriented courses and too-few liberal arts courses, he would admit later. Chicago proved to be a culture shock for the young man from the Cornhusker state.
He moved to Denver and started his career with another optometrist in Lakewood. In keeping with his profession, he met Carolyn Rabe on a "blind" date while she was a teacher in Arvada. They married in 1965 at Church of the Hills in Evergreen, beginning their love affair with Evergreen. A year later they would move here, finding themselves an unusually young couple amongst most who were at least 10 years older. With fewer than 2,000 year-round residents at that time, everyone knew everyone else and welcomed them into the fold.
Evergreen's first eye doctor
Rod wasn’t sure whether Evergreen could support having an eye doctor of its own, but he tested the waters by renting space on lower Main Street (office space downstairs and living space upstairs) and seeing patients one day/week, keeping his practice in Lakewood the balance of the week. Periodically, he'd extend office hours in Evergreen by a day and commute to Lakewood one less day. By 1986 the Evergreen office – known as Evergreen Vision Clinic – was open five days/week; it relocated to Buffalo Park Road where Carolyn helped as office manager.
It was in the 1960s that a medical clinic was started on Meadow Drive, bringing doctors and medical specialists to Evergreen on a part-time basis. But Rod was Evergreen's first optometrist.
“It used to be when people got older – mainly because there was no healthcare here – they moved to Denver,” Rod recalls. “That’s changed. Now many retire here.”
Community service extends well beyond Evergreen
Rod’s experience with scouting was the foundation for his long career in volunteering. “When you go through the process to become an Eagle Scout, the merit badges leading to that position are community service,” he explained. He had a commission in the military as a doctor, but a bad back resulted in a medical deferment. Instead, an appointment by President Nixon made him a member of the United States Draft Board during the Viet Nam War in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. (He learned later that it was Ross Grimes who'd nominated him for the position.) “We managed the drafting process for young men from Jefferson County until the drafting process was discontinued.” In 1973 the Selective Service was converted to an all-volunteer military.
During that same period, families were concerned about healthy activities for their children here in Evergreen. A group of individuals had a concept for a community swimming pool near the high school, an idea that evolved into the start of the Evergreen Park and Recreation District (EPRD - originally called in 1969 the Evergreen Metropolitan Recreation and Park Center). Although not one of the organizing committee, Rod did serve on the first board of directors (1970-78).
“There were no facilities, only a concept,” he recalled. “We had to let bonds and manage an electrion for raising the money to build the first project, the (Wulf) swimming pool and admin building. About the time we had a big hole for the swimming pool, we realized that we needed someone to manage the district. While reading a stack of resumes, I found a young man that was teaching swimming in Broomfield. He also happened to be from a town 25 miles from my home town in Nebraska. I recommended him, and he was hired. This was Dick Wulf, and he served the district for the next 35 wonderful years.”
Rod served as the treasurer of EPRD, spending half a day each week hand writing the checks and helping to manage the finances of the district. He was proud that the building project was completed within the prescribed budget during his tenure on the board; the building housed not only the swimming pool but also the gym, handball courts and workout facilities. The trail system was started during this time as well.
His connection to Lakewood well into the ‘80s caused him to be very involved with the Lakewood Kiwanis Club; he was a member of the Evergreen Kiwanis Club as well. The Lakewood Kiwanis affiliation initiated his being a ski instructor for The National Sports Center for the Disabled at Winter Park, the original ski program for the disabled. During the 1990s and the early 2000s, he worked with blind and partially-sighted children from the Soviet Union, England and from all over the United States.
Later he began instructing (and continues to do so) with the Shining Stars Foundation out of Tabernash, CO – a spinoff from the Winter Park disabled program – providing a week-long camp experience for children with cancer. There he taught several children with brain cancers causing blindness as well as other disabilities.
“I taught a child with one amputated leg to snowboard and then to successfully run a race course,” he recalled. Years later he would see her pictured on Channel 9, named Colorado’s Disabled Athlete of the Year.
He remembers when, in the early ‘90s, the Frank Foundation brought in 16 orphans from Russia suffering from fetal alchohol syndrome. Fifteen were adopted, and Rod often wondered what it would have been like to have been the one who was not.
Starting in 1990 and continuing twice a year until 2008, as a volunteer Rod helped provide eye care to the the poor Mexican people and the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyon area of central Mexico. The program, sponsored by the Arvada Rotary Club, would fly volunteer professionals from Denver to Guachochi, Chihauhua, Mexico, in small planes. There were serious issues with dry-eye resulting from the Indians’ living in caves with fires. He would take medications and do eye exams, while accompanying opticians would fit the glasses and give them away. “We would bring thousands of used glasses with us.”
In addition to developing close friends in central Mexico, he helped start a Rotary Club there. “My friend Pepe, the local physician, said his patients would ask, “When will the white-haired doctor who looks in our eyes return?” Unfortuantely, the eye-care program was cancelled because of the recent drug wars in Mexico.
Between 1996 and 2012 Rod served two six-year terms on the board for Mt. Evans Home Health and Hospice in Evergreen, working on the medical advisory committee his first six years. He was president for one year and spent considerable time on board development over a sixteen-year period.
Rod’s professional career included his serving as president of the Colorado Optometric Association, being an active Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, and serving as a consultant to companies developing products for the vision industry.
Rod and Carolyn can often be seen volunteering together – at the Freedom Run, the 9Health Fair or taking tickets at the Evergreen Jazz Festival.