Petaluma Advocate of Abused Catholics Dies

By Guy Kovner
Press Democrat
April 23, 2008

Donald I. Hoard, an early and impassioned advocate for people molested by Roman Catholic priests, died Monday of colon cancer at his longtime home in Petaluma. He was 73.

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Hoard, a retired insurance agent, became a victims' advocate and harsh critic of the church hierarchy after his son, Donald, came forward in 1994 as one of the Santa Rosa Diocese's first victims.

By the time the sex abuse scandal became national news in 2002, Hoard had counseled scores of victims and compiled an archive on the North Coast diocese's 40-year history of child abuse, cover-up and denial by church leaders.

"It's a huge loss for our movement," said David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "He was a real pioneer."

Donald W. Hoard of Windsor said his father was "a well of wisdom, strength and integrity" not only to clergy abuse victims but to many others, including family members, coping with life's challenges.

"He's always been there for me," said Hoard, a corporate tax consultant, noting that his father was best man at his wedding in 1985.

The younger Hoard was one of nine men, alleged victims of the Rev. Gary Timmons, who settled a lawsuit against the Santa Rosa Diocese for $830,000 in 1995.

Dan Galvin, the diocese's attorney, said he "didn't always see eye-to-eye" with the elder Hoard but respected "his passion, his commitment to his cause."

The 167,000-member diocese, which stretches from Petaluma to the Oregon border, has now paid nearly $25 million to dozens of sex abuse victims. But its refusal to name nine of the 17 priests accused of misconduct riled critics, including Hoard.

"I don't see how the church can ask for forgiveness when they're not telling us the whole story," he said in 2002.

When the diocese was reeling from the financial impact of victims' lawsuits, Hoard acknowledged it could curb the church's social programs but said the losses were "completely self-inflicted" by the failure of past bishops to discipline known child molesters.

Clohessy said Hoard was among the first victim advocates to "understand the depth of the complicity" of bishops in the crimes of pedophile priests.

Hoard's death came a day after Pope Benedict XVI completed his visit to the United States, which included praying with five victims and expressing regret for the sex abuse scandal.

Michele Anderson of Santa Rosa said her father's honesty and integrity were woven into "his day-to-day life." She was touched by his decision to adopt her and her sister, Maureen, when he married their mother. Don and Marilyn Hoard met in 1958, had three more children and were married for nearly 50 years.

Even in arguments with his teenage children, Hoard "would always listen," Anderson said. "He always gave us the correct advice."

Born in Portland, Ore., Hoard moved with his mother to San Francisco, where he graduated from Sacred Heart High School in 1952. After two years in the Army, serving in Korea, Hoard enrolled at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit school, and earned a degree in business administration.

He worked as an insurance broker at Transamerica in San Francisco, then moved to Petaluma in 1965, joining the J.J. King insurance agency. Hoard bought the agency and ran an office on Kentucky Street for about 30 years, retiring in the early 1990s.

An outdoorsman, Hoard enjoyed hiking, fishing and camping. He was a campground host at Sonoma County coastal parks and elected to have his ashes scattered over the ocean at Salt Point.

Hoard was a co-founder and referee in the Petaluma Youth Soccer League.

He was diagnosed with kidney cancer seven years ago, and the organ was removed. Two years later, he underwent chemotherapy for colon cancer, but it eventually spread to his lungs and liver. In February, he stopped medical treatment.

"Well, I guess this has been a pretty good life," Anderson recalled her father saying the day that decision was made.

Survivors, in addition to his wife, son and daughter, are daughters Maureen Mitchell of Santa Rosa, Marci Hoard of Cazadero and Bobbi Hoard of Rohnert Park, and eight grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held May 10 at the Petaluma Elks Club.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or


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