An Independent Woman: The Life of Lou Henry Hoover

By Anne Beiser Allen; Jon L. Wakelyn | Go to book overview
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One Last Move

In late October 1964, the Rev. Thomas Hulme, rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received a telephone call from John Turner, director of the prestigious Turner Mortuary and a long-time member of his parish. He had a very special favor to ask, Turner said. He had asked the Bishop of Iowa to do it, but the bishop was not free and had suggested Rev. Hulme take his place. The body of Mrs. Hoover was being brought to West Branch, where her husband had recently been buried with great ceremony, and the family wanted an Episcopal priest to preside over her recommittal. There was to be absolutely no publicity; Hulme was sworn to secrecy on the subject. He would be picked up at the church on Sunday morning, October 29, at 7:30. Arrangements had been made for another priest to take his 8 A.M. service. Not even his wife was to know where he was going.

Intrigued, and aware that the arrangements were already so far along that it would be awkward for him to refuse, the Rev. Hulme agreed. Promptly at 7:30, a black limousine appeared behind the church, whisking him away from his startled congregation and down the interstate to the Hoover birthplace at West Branch. A Secret Service car accompanied them; when they reached the gravesite, he saw still more Secret Service men scattered around the site. "There was one behind every tree," Hulme later recalled, smiling.1

In the chill, drizzly October morning, the young priest read the burial service from his prayer book as Lou Henry Hoover's casket was lowered into the ground beside her husband's grave. As he said the final words, John Turner leaned over and whispered, "Now she's in holy ground -- do you think you could just extend the consecration a little further?" He gestured towards the former president's grave.


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