For decades, old-school chiropractor Jim Hostetter pedaled a bicycle to the Santa Rosa practice he ran alone. He spent whatever time was needed to listen to and treat his patients, regardless of their ability to pay.
Hostetter trained at the Palmer College of Chiropractic in the footsteps of both his older brother, Alan, and their father, Norman, who opened the family’s original practice in Santa Rosa in 1941.
The 6-foot-6 and gracious Jim Hostetter didn’t accept insurance and he didn’t send out bills. With no assistant in the office, daughter Jennifer Averbuck said, “He’d be in the middle of a treatment and he’d excuse himself to go answer the phone.”
Hostetter, a native of Petaluma and a 1951 graduate of Santa Rosa High School, was still seeing patients less than three weeks ago. He died July 4 at the age of 85.
One patient, Sheridan Behrens of Santa Rosa, went to Hostetter for nine years and appreciated that “he would spend a whole lot more time with you” than most other practitioners he’s known.
Hostetter, Behrens added, “had just a very healing presence.”
The chiropractor worked out of simple Fourth Street offices that his father built in 1960. He shared a love of antiquing with his late wife, Bernita, and he festooned the room containing his desk with all manner of collected treasures: vintage tennis racquets, a bubblegum machine, a “Furnished Rooms for Rent” sign, a leather razor strap.
Hostetter’s patients knew they could simply drop in. He had them use a large pencil — “He would sharpen it with his whittle knife,” his daughter said — to sign in on a pad of paper outside the unadorned waiting room.
He ran the practice for 60 years.
His daughter, a lifelong resident of Santa Rosa, said he avoided retirement out of a sense of responsibility to his patients, and also because he felt he needed to stay busy rather than dwell with the sorrow from the death of his wife in the fall of 2016.
James R. Hostetter was born May 21, 1933. Following graduation from Santa Rosa High he moved to Iowa to study at the Palmer chiropractic college.
Shortly after graduation he joined the U.S. Army Reserve and served as an X-ray technician. He joined his father and brother in the family chiropractic practice in 1958, then opened his own practice in the 1970s.
He was married to the former Bernita Davis of Napa County for 54 years. Throughout that time, the pair savored playing tennis, shopping for antiques and immersing themselves in the activities and congregation of the First Presbyterian Church.
They lived always in the heart of Santa Rosa, first on Alderbrook Drive and then on McDonald Avenue. Daughter Averbuck said that for many years her father rode his bike to work — except on those days that he planned to play tennis a few miles away at La Cantera Racquet & Swim Club.
“He would take his car on those days,” Averbuck said. In addition to his regular car, for years Hostetter enjoyed tinkering with his 1936 Ford sedan.
His family persuaded him to stop commuting by bicycle in 2004, when he was 71.