When my father, Jack Hockel, moved into the Encina Grande neighborhood in 1964, he had no idea how he and our family would help shape the future of the Northgate area. His new next-door neighbors were Thurman and Nellie Casey, the farmers who had once owned all the land bounded by Oak Grove Road to the east, Wiget Lane to the west, Ygnacio Valley Road to the north, and the PGE right-of-way to the south. As they grew older, the Caseys sold off the property surrounding their house, to be developed into the Encina Grande neighborhood. Jack and wife Judie settled into their newly built home and raised their six children, including me, their oldest, who would go on to become a dentist like my dad.
MRS. CASEY’S PROPERTY
Thurman Casey eventually passed away in 1967, and his widow Nellie donated the land adjacent to her house to Contra Costa County for a new library, officially named the “Thurman G. Casey Memorial Library,” but now commonly called the “Ygnacio Valley Library.” Then some years later, Mrs. Casey herself passed away, but she had left instructions in her will that her neighbor, Dr. Jack Hockel (my dad), was interested in purchasing her house; he could bid on her house without paying realtor fees, to convert it to a dental office. My father ended up winning the bidding, purchasing the property in 1978, and going through all the steps required to have the zoning changed from residential to a professional office.
A HOCKEL FAMILY AFFAIR
After much work, the remodeled dental office was open to the public in 1981 and has been a family effort ever since. After graduating from UCSF Dental School, I joined my dad in practice in 1989, in what we now call “Life Dental & Orthodontics” on Oak Grove Road, right next to the library. My brother, Steve Hockel, runs the on-site dental laboratory, crafting crowns, bridges, and other dental appliances. Our sister Barbara serves as the Financial Coordinator / Bookkeeper, and my wife, Beth, is the Business Office Manager. Several of our Hockel children have worked as after-school helpers in the office, including our son Mark, who currently assists with fabricating orthodontic appliances.
PRESERVING WALNUT CREEK HISTORY
Maintaining the historic nature of the “Casey House” has always been very important to our family. The building and grounds have been carefully preserved so that both the exterior and elements of the interior recall its previous use as a farmhouse. The original fireplace in the Casey family room still exists in what is now my private office and consultation room. You can even see Mrs. Casey’s jar opener, mounted on the wall near where her kitchen sink had been! Several years ago, the Walnut Creek Historical Society sponsored an Open House of the Casey property, inviting the public to tour the interior, along with displays of historical photos and artifacts from the Caseys and the surrounding original structures. “I consider it our family’s privilege and responsibility to care for this house as a living part of the history of Walnut Creek,” comments my mother, Judie Hockel, former board member of the Walnut Creek Historical Society.
FAMILY ROOTS / GIVING BACK
In these days of mobility, it is a rare occurrence to put down family roots and thrive in one neighborhood for multiple generations. Yet that is what has occurred here with our Hockel family. I am so thankful for the privilege to be able to grow up, work, live, and raise a family here in the Northgate area! Two ways I have been happy to “give back” to the community are: first, providing excellent dental and orthodontic care right in our neighborhood, and second, carefully preserving the jewel of our dental office, the historic Casey House.
COME SEE US!
If any of our neighbors would like to take a peek inside our historic office, please feel free to come by for a quick tour. And if you need any dental or orthodontic services, you are more than welcome to call us at Life Dental & Orthodontics, 925-934-3434, to arrange an appointment. It would be our pleasure to serve you!
By Brian Hockel, DDS, Resident since 1964