In memory of
1948 - 2016 Michael Hoke had the official honors to prove he was an outstanding science teacher, but the certificates can never show the love of learning he instilled in thousands of students. Hoke died Wednesday, January 13, at the age of 67 after dedicating his adult life to preserving nature and teaching future generations to be kind to the world. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Saturday at First United Methodist Church in downtown Orange with visitation Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the church's Praise Center. Arrangements are under Claybar Funeral Home of Orange. Hoke and his wife, Sandra, were married nearly 47 years and lived in Orange for 40 years. They met while students at Lamar University in Beaumont, where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology. He later earned a master's degree in biology from Lamar University completed coursework for a doctorate in science education from the University of Houston. His first teaching job was in 1971 in Orange at what was then North Junior High School. He taught seventh grade science in the West Orange-Cove school district for years. His students remember his passion for science and making classes fun. He grew up in Dickinson where his father was a union member working in a refinery. Unions were important in his life and he started an American Federation of Teachers in Orange. He served as president and was outspoken before school boards and to superintendents in an effort to make sure teachers were treated fairly. In 1978, he began Bios, a School on Wheels. He and a group of fellow teachers took select groups of junior high students through Texas in the summer to learn at places like Big Bend National Park and McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis. A student who had completed the Texas trip was eligible to go on a Colorado trip the next year. He was named as the Texas recipient of the National Science Foundation's Presidential Award for science and math in 1989. He received the award during a White House luncheon with President George H.W. Bush. He became a nationally-known speaker and instructor for teachers. He spent three summers at Harvard University sharing his expertise. Hoke threw star parties to teach astronomy. He took students to places like High Island and Anahuac to study birds. Students never forgot catching birds in special nets, then holding them to put a tracking band on their legs for scientific studies. Twenty years ago, Hoke established The Nature Classroom on a small plot of wetlands along Adams Bayou in Orange. The classroom was part of the West Orange-Cove school district and students spent class time outdoors immersed in nature. First he decided the bayou needed cleaning and he started the annual Bayou Trash-Off every February. The Stark Foundation in Orange in 2002 began to turn the private park Shangri La, which had been closed for 50 years, into a botanical garden and nature center along Adams Bayou. Hoke retired as a teacher to become the first executive director of Shangri La. He oversaw the design and construction, insisting that it become an example of ecologically sound design and function. Shangri La became the first project in Texas to earn a platinum LEEDS designation. After 10 years at Shangri La, he retired again but didn't quit working. He worked with the Big Thicket Association and piloted the boat Ivory Bill along the Neches River. Recently, he became the president of the Golden Triangle Sierra Club. He also worked with the Science Superstars program and Lamar's Jason Project. When his children were young, Hoke coached youth sports teams and served as scout leader. In recent years, he was the Paw Paw who took the grandchildren outdoors to look at leaves, birds, or fossils. Hoke was a longtime member of First United Methodist Church in Orange, but he most often found God outdoors, looking at the stars, the bayou, the trees, the flowers and the birds. Hoke's parents were the late Marvin Ford Hoke and Jesse Faye Walker Hoke. He was preceded in death by two brothers, Marvin Butch Hoke Jr. and Johnny Hoke. Besides Sandra, he is also survived by his children, Julia Kathleen Hoke and husband Mike Boyle of Austin; and son Robert Walker Hoke and wife Michelle Ann Hoke of Baton Rouge. His grandchildren are Kate and Caroline Boyle and Ethan Walker Hoke. Other survivors include his brother Jesse Hoke, nieces and nephews Dianna Walker and husband Brian, John Hoke Jr. and wife Kimberley, Jim Hoke, and Jennifer Hoke. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to First United Methodist Church in Orange or the Golden Triangle Sierra Club.
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