Sam Hoffman was tough till the end on Saturday, July 16, 2011, as his youngest grandson, Christian, called out, "Goodbye Grampa … Goodbye Grampa" to him on his hospital bed.
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He gave a quick, sweet smile, and he was on his way to a richly deserved reward for being a shining example of a man, and God's servant. He wasn't too much for formal Sunday go-to-meeting, but he was a polished example of living the golden rule. We don't shoot gophers on Sunday. We don't mow over a volunteer pansy in the yard.
He's been described by people who had the good fortune to know him as … a prince of a man … a gem of a man … a sweet man ... a gentle soul … a kind spirit … a really good man … one medical woman said, he was a cutey patootey … and by many, a man I genuinely liked.
As family we can identify with that. He was genuine and so likeable. Not only did we love him … we liked him. He had the patience of a saint. He didn't like yelling. He didn't like turmoil. He liked things squared away. You could tell that with his neat printing … the way he wanted a red check mark on a wrong answer when he graded papers ... his mechanical drawings from college and teaching.
And how 'bout that trademark crew cut. He was very unspoiled. He believed in hashing things out. Sketching out a plan. He liked working on projects. And he believed in doing your best. That was a familiar line. Do your best. Like on school work … then the pressure was on you. But if you did your best … you felt great ... even if it wasn't an "A."
And gardening. He grew carrots that spoiled you to any store-bought ones … in double rows … in arrow-straight rows … grew extra to share with relatives and friends who flattered him with the truth of being the best carrots they'd ever eaten.
He was shy … and cared that everyone thought they were valued. Likely part of being one of 11 children … with Sam second to last in the lineup. He didn't require or want a lot of stuff. You could make do, he'd say … that's all you need. And ask him what he'd like for dinner ... whatever's being served … tho he said he'd never turn down a Dairy Queen Blizzard with pineapple and coconut or a soft-serve ice cream cone.
He'd come in to ask if you needed help on something. You'd be about done and say so ... and he'd laugh and say, Well I timed that just right. He'd do or fix something so it would work … and say, Call it good. Notice his summer work boots with duct tape on the toe … used many seasons working on the farm and haying in the summer. He was happy with a 1-foot-tall Christmas tree … his daughter liked 12-plus feet … so a compromise 9-foot tree.
Sam was a teacher in Wilsall and Belgrade. He was remembered around the valley everywhere we went. His students would recognize him and ask, Is that Mr. Hoffman. They'd say he hadn't changed much, and he'd say, Yes … but you all changed a lot from junior high. He was remembered, respected and appreciated. He coached and came home to milk a cow after a long day for many years. He served in the Air Force. Sam spent winters in Atlanta a number of years … building on unfinished basements … one with a work bench that the buyers specifically requested stayed that like Uncles Chris and Bill had little holes and built-ins for tools.
When we were little he'd play anti-i-over. Throw the ball over the roof. If you caught it you ran around the house and tried to tag the other person. If you missed you threw it back over. He'd play till he'd have an asthma attack.
He liked a challenge in his younger days. He was on the football team ... and took some solid hits. He got a little as he would put it ... loud and mouthy. After the coach was bragging up another runner, Dad said he could beat him. He did … and then he said he went in and heaved for about half an hour in the locker room.
The Thursday evening winding down in the emergency room after he took a tumble that broke his neck in two places, he said, "Of all things … of all things" … and said OK … let's shut 'er down and get 20 winks. He used to say 40.
So with all the severe health challenges the last couple of years and lack of sleep, he always rallied ... thru some really tough times … he rallied … and he stayed tough and tender.
Just a couple of days before he died Saturday, he was on the tractor helping give a hedge a major trim with his grandsons and Tony. For two days he was right there in the mix … described by his grandsons ... with a big smile … one of the biggest smiles they'd seen … being patient … excited to do it ... and showing he could still get the projects done.
He always said if we were coming to visit ... the door's always open. He did not like traveling too much, but did go on a major trip with one daughter, brother George and sister Helen to Switzerland where his parents came from. He was able to meet Swiss relatives and see where his mom lived as a child.
He joins his parents … who must be thrilled to have a Sunday potluck with him again … Hermine Glauser Hoffman and Rudolph Hoffman; his spitfire of a woman wife ... Emma Prescott Hoffman; his daughter, Janis, who died 14 months ago; and his beloved brothers and sisters whom he was so close to.
He's survived by one brother, George Hoffman of Spokane, and one sister, Mary Fogle of Bozeman; also his daughter, Donna; and grandsons, Jeffrey Samuel Womack and Christian Michael Clemente; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
The family sends a very warm and heartfelt thank you to Dr. Roberts and the ladies and staff at Bozeman Clinic, Dr. Marquis and staff, the emergency room doctors and nurses who we got to know on practically a first name basis and the nurses at Bozeman Deaconess for their tremendous care, and Dr. Mcglaughlin on Dad's last hours … a doctor who has the bedside manner and compassion that was almost angelic. The excellent care and personality at the wound clinic … and the physical rehab gals who are top notch, Community Home Oxygen, and Chris and all at Dokken-Nelson who are a blessing and know how to throw a celebration of life.
Memorials may be sent to the Lung Association, Diabetes Foundation, Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center or the wound clinic … or to a charity of your choice.
So as Sam always said … Do your best … do the best you can. He did more than that!
Visitation at Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service will be held from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 21. Funeral service will be at 12:30 p.m. Friday, July 22, at Hope Lutheran Church.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service; www.dokkennelson.com.
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on July 21, 2011