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Dr. Hodapp, pediatrician and former mayor, dead at age of 86

WILLMAR -- Dr. Robert V. Hodapp had a way of staying calm, no matter how intense the situation.

"He was always even-tempered. Ev-en if he got upset, he didn't show it very much," recalled Dr. James Tiede, one of Hod-app's former colleagues. Hodapp, a longtime pediatrician and former Willmar mayor, died Tuesday at his home in Spicer. He was one day short of his 87th birthday.

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Spicer. Visitation is from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday at Peterson Brothers Funeral Home in Willmar.

Family, friends and fellow physicians on Wednesday remembered Hodapp as a leader and role model who touched countless lives, both directly and indirectly.

A native of Willmar, he followed a family path into medicine and civic leadership. His father, Dr. Robert J. Hodapp, was one of the founding members of the Lakeland Medical Center, the predecessor to the present-day Affiliated Community Medical Centers. The senior Hodapp also was president of the Willmar School Board when the land was acquired for what is now Kennedy Elementary School. Willmar High School's track and football stadium at Hodapp Field is named after him.

Robert V. Hodapp attended medical school at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1946. Virtually his entire medical career was spent in Willmar. From 1949 to 1958 he was a family practice physician, then took a two-year break to pursue a residency in pediatrics. For the next three decades, from 1960 until his retirement in 1989, he was a pediatrician for at least two generations of local children.

Somehow he also found time for local politics. He was on the Willmar City Council from 1954 to 1958. At the urging of council members, he ran successfully for mayor, serving from 1963 through 1964.

In a Tribune interview in 1996, he recalled how he balanced the combination of pediatrics and politics: "It was a very busy two years but it worked out reasonably well. ... It was a bit stressful at times, but what isn't?"

Dr. Ronald Holmgren, president of Affiliated Community Medical Centers, was new to Willmar when he first met Hodapp 33 years ago.

"He was respected and one of the leaders of our clinic," Holmgren said. "He was an outstanding individual -- warm and kind, as you would expect from a pediatrician. It's a great loss in having him pass."

Hodapp was generous in sharing his knowledge with medical students who trained in Willmar, Tiede said. "Bob was a good teacher. That was a great rotation for the students."

Three of Hodapp's sons and a granddaughter followed him into medicine. Two sons are at ACMC: Dr. Robert E. Hodapp is in family medicine and Dr. Michael Hodapp is a pediatrician. Another son is a dentist and oral surgeon.

"He was pretty proud of us," said Dr. Robert E. Hodapp. "We all looked up to him and admired him. He was a good role model."

He said his father, who had moved to Spicer after retiring, was in failing health the last couple of years. He stayed at the GlenOaks home in New London for a short time this fall and had been living in his own home for the past two weeks when he died on Tuesday, his son said.

Until this past year, Hodapp continued to attend ACMC's annual get-together for retired physicians, Holmgren said. Hodapp also was planning to be one of the guest speakers next month for a KWLM radio show on medical memories.

An avid duck hunter, he managed to make one last trip to the family shack this fall for the opening of the duck season, Dr. Robert E. Hodapp said.

"He was well-respected and loved," he said. "He'll be missed."

Survivors include his wife, Shirlee, five children, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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