In a country built by settlers, many do not even know where their ancestors first settled. But some people find themselves, generations later, closely connected to a place, its history, its people.
Russell O. Hooker and Shepherd M. Holcombe were two of those people.
Both families arrived in Connecticut in the early 1600’s. Thomas Holcombe, Shep’s ancestor, arrived in Windsor, Connecticut in 1635. Russell O. Hooker was a ninth generation descendent of the Reverend Thomas Hooker, founder of Hartford, Connecticut.
Despite both families strong attachment to the past, both Russ Hooker and Shep Holcombe were firmly rooted in the present. Today, their spirit lives on in the City and in the company they founded which still thrives on LaSalle Road in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Russell Olin Hooker (1898-1987)
Russell O. Hooker was born on July 18, 1898 to Harold L. Hooker and Fanny O. Hooker. He had one brother.
In 1920, Russell graduated from Cornell University and began his career in the insurance industry. He became a nationally known insurance executive and was Actuary and Director of Examinations for the Connecticut Insurance Department for 28 years. A leader in his industry, he was recognized throughout the insurance industry by his representation in many communities of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Russell became a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society in 1924 and a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries in 1933. He was also a Charter member of the American Academy of Actuaries.
In 1956, he established the actuarial consulting firm known as Russell O. Hooker, Consulting Actuary. His practice expanded to become Russell O. Hooker and Associates and in 1969, the firm welcomed his cousin, Shepherd M. Holcombe, Sr., and changed its name to Hooker & Holcombe, Inc.
Russell Olin Hooker died on March 31, 1987 at his home in West Hartford, Connecticut. He was survived by his wife, Gertrude, a son and two daughters. He lived his entire life serving the insurance and retirement plan community he so passionately loved.
Shepherd Monson Holcombe, Sr. (1921 – 2012)
Shepherd M. Holcombe was born on June 12, 1921 to Harold G. Holcombe, Sr. and Ethel Percy Manson Holcombe. He had two older brothers and the family lived in a house on Spring Street that had been occupied by his ancestors since 1840.
The insurance business ran in the family's veins — Holcombe's grandfather, John M. Holcombe, was president of the Phoenix Mutual Insurance Co., and his father, Harold G. Holcombe Sr., had his own insurance agency. As a child, Shep developed a love for mathematics. When he asked his grandfather what he might do when he grew up, his grandfather suggested he become an actuary, like himself. Holcombe's path was set.
He went to Kingswood School and graduated from Loomis – both in West Hartford, Connecticut. He enrolled in Yale, but left in 1943 to join the Army Air Corps. The military sent him to New York University, where he studied meteorology and then served as weather officer for a bombing group in southern Italy. He was awarded the Bronze Star.
Upon leaving the service, Shep worked at what was then Connecticut General Insurance Co. from 1945 to 1968. He became the head of the actuarial consulting department in Group Pensions. In 1969, he became partner of Hooker & Holcombe, an actuarial and retirement planning firm from which he retired in 1989.
He was devoted to the City of Hartford, and his passions included the Mark Twain House where he was a member of the Twain House board of trustees. He worked tirelessly to restore the Ancient Burying Ground, an effort begun by his grandmother, Emily Seymour Holcombe, and became the president and then chairman of the restoration organization. In 1994, together with William Hosley, he wrote a book about the Ancient Burying Ground.
Shep was on the board of directors of the Old State House during the renovations of the early 1990s and underwrote the cost of the Emily Seymour Goodwin Holcombe Education Center, named for his grandmother.
Shepherd Monson Holcombe, Sr. died Nov. 28, 2012 at the age of 91. He lived his entire life not more than a few miles from the family homestead on Spring Street.