GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — What does it mean to serve the community as a wife, mother, grandmother, supporter of the arts and health in a family whose name is a household word in healthcare in southeast Ohio?
The descendants of Roberta “Bobbie” Holzer can tell you.
“She was involved in everything with all kinds of clubs and art,” said Amy Irvin, Bobbie’s youngest daughter. “She was involved in entertaining all the doctors that Dad was interviewing who came to town to work at the hospital and their families… Her job was to make them feel welcome in Gallipolis and all its wonderful things and to maybe find out about some of their concerns.”
Bobbie died Dec. 23, 2020 at Holzer Assisted Living. Her daughter says she turned 99 in August, the same year.
The Holzer family became synonymous with southeast Ohio healthcare after Dr. Charles Holzer Sr. opened one of the earliest private hospitals in the region. Bobbie’s husband, Dr. Charles Holzer Jr., would go one to follow his father’s path in blazing southeast Ohio healthcare trails after graduating from Cornell Medical School and his surgical residency at the University of Cincinnati before returning to Gallipolis in 1947, said Irvin.
According to Holzer Health System information, the Holzer Clinic was founded in 1950, and the Holzer Hospital and Medical Center Hospital joined as well as the Gallipolis Clinic and Holzer Clinic in 1968. Then, in 1972, Holzer Medical Center and Holzer Clinic opened on Jackson Pike. The Holzer Health System today serves as one of the region’s largest employers and healthcare providers in southeast Ohio and West Virginia.
Bobbie was born and raised in Point Pleasant, W.Va. She was the daughter of the late Seth Chandler Wilhelm and Susannah Dixon Heslop.
Bobbie and Charles Jr. married at Christ Episcopal Church in Point Pleasant. on Sept. 4, 1940. They shared five children, Karin O’Neil, Charles Holzer III, John Holzer, Christiana Gallant and Amy.
Bobbie’s father and Charles Jr.’s father were noted friends.
“Mom and Dad would sit in the kitchen after (prospective doctors and families) left and talked about whether they thought they might fit into the community,” said Irvin of her parents. “So she sort of helped with the recruiting of doctors by talking about small town life.”
Irvin said that her mother was a skilled conversationalist and completed a degree in psychology from Ohio University.
Bobbie was noted for serving as an international student advisor for the Rio Grande College. She was a supporter of the Ariel Opera House and The Ohio Valley Symphony as well as the French Art Colony.
The French Art Colony moved to the former Charles Sr.’s home at 530 First Avenue, Gallipolis in 1970. Bobbie and Charles Jr.’s home was right across the street at 525 First Avenue. Irvin said her mother was among the founding membership of the French Art Colony.
“Mom could never sit still and she always had to be doing something and was sort of like a whirlwind all the time,” said Irvin.
Irvin noted her mother was involved in a variety of organizations such as Friends of the Bossard Library, the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Girl Scouts and more.
“Mom was very well mannered,” said Bobbie’s son, John. “She knew the social rules of the time… But Mom wasn’t snobbish and didn’t turn away from those less fortunate. She could almost always find a job around our house to help someone out.”
“Granmere was one of the most poised and eloquent individuals I have known,” said Bobbie’s great-granddaughter, Erin O’Neil. “She taught me through her own actions the value of intentional selflessness, quality conversation, and deep care and respect for others. Reflecting on her life as I witnessed it, she was always present and attentive with others. She took her time in conversation and carried herself both with respect, curiosity, and an open heart.”
“Mom loved to dance,” said Irvin. “She always said that when she married Dad he had promised her that they would go dancing every Saturday night, which didn’t happen of course. But when she and Dad waltzed, the whole room would stop and watch, giving them the floor.”
© 2021 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Dean Wright is a freelance writer and former full-time reporter for Ohio Valley Publishing.