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Pennsylvania Legion Official Who Sounded Disease Alarm Dies

October 2, 1991

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ Edward T. Hoak, the Pennsylvania American Legion leader who alerted state health officials to the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 1976, has died. He was 67.

Hoak retired Sept. 9 as legion state adjutant, a post he had held for 28 years. He died at Holy Spirit Hospital Sunday after suffering a heart attack, his family said.

″Ed Hoak was the American Legion of Pennsylvania,″ said Stanley Reinhard, his successor.

Hoak was the one who first learned that legionnaires who had attended a convention in Philadelphia in July 1976 were falling ill after they returned home.

During a ceremony the Sunday after the convention, Hoak heard that two legion members, aged 48 and 54, had died. Other friends were ill and there were rumors of more.

Hoak started making calls, and within hours, he had uncovered more deaths among the conventioneers.

Hoak consulted with state Health Department officials and alerted The Associated Press. The department issued a statewide health alert and put more than 100 people to work tracking down cases and a cause.

The death toll reached 29 and the malady took the name, Legionnaires’ disease. The following January, the federal Centers for Disease Control announced it had isolated the previously unknown, bacterium-like organism.

Officials believe the organism was in an air conditioning cooling tower at the Philadelphia hotel and spread through the ventilation system.

A native of Manor, Hoak was an adviser on veterans affairs to three Pennsylvania governors.