Obituary : Hyman U. "Hy" Hoffman
Hyman U. "Hy" Hoffman died on Wednesday, Oct. 1, in the Martha's Vineyard Hospital after a heroic fight against cancer. He first became a resident of Oak Bluffs in 1969 and lived there with his family until the late 1970s when they moved to Zaire in Central Africa.
Over the course of his life, he spent nearly 20 years in Africa. He and his first wife, Barbara Hoffman, lived in Casablanca, Morocco for two years. They returned to West Africa with their young family in the early 1960s. Hy was the director of the Peace Corps in Senegal for two and a half years.
Travel was always an important part of Hy's life. He and his wife were born in the Midwest, but were always called by the "Faraway Places with Strange Sounding Names." They hitchhiked across Europe in the early 1950s with a backpack and later traveled all over Africa.
He started his life in Fargo, N.D., in 1925 as part of the small Jewish community. He excelled in school and had many friends. Hy turned 18 years old passing under the Golden Gate Bridge on a troop ship on his way to fight in the Philippines in World War II. During the war, he served as a tank commander in the 640th tank destroyer battalion of the 40th division in New Guinea, New Britain, and the Philippines. Hy participated in three amphibious beachhead landings and was awarded the Bronze Star.
After the war was over, Hy returned and attended the University of Minnesota on the G.I. Bill, studying journalism and advertising. As senior class president, he led the graduating class of 1949 to commencement exercises.
Hy had many different careers, from advertising executive at Kimberley Clark to adult education consultant to organizing labor unions in Africa for the AFL-CIO. He was always up for an adventure and for trying the "Road Less Taken." Improving the lives of others was a consistent theme, whether he was working as a public health educator or improving literacy for adults.
In his last years, he returned to the Vineyard and lived in the family home on Shirley Avenue in Oak Bluffs. He spent six years working at the Vineyard Home Center, a job he truly loved. His family visited him often.
He leaves behind four children, Robert Hoffman of Washington, D.C., Julie Hursey of Petersburg, Alaska, Ann Hoffman of Los Angeles, Calif., and Steven Hoffman of Temecula, Calif. He also was survived by two grandchildren, Rebecca and William Hoffman of Washington, D.C.; his sister Zella Horwitz of Tucson, Ariz.; and his loving nieces Sari Horwitz of Washington, D.C, Heidi Horwitz of Tucson, Ariz., Wendy Horwitz of Colo., and Claudia Lieberman of Long Island, N.Y.; as well as a nephew, Jeffrey Hochman.
His second wife, Patries Govers, lives in Germany. His loving companion, Corinne Moran, livened up his last years and was a loyal companion through the medical adventures he faced. His dog Fifi, the light of his life, brought him joy every day.
We enjoyed Hy's humor and intelligence and breadth of knowledge. He participated in the major events of his generation and always kept abreast of the political currents of the times. He was interested in everything. Hy's courage and good humor during his long battle with cancer was an inspiration to those who knew him, particularly the men in the Prostate Support Group here on the Island. He had a charm that made people smile and won many friends. We will miss him so much.
Hy's graveside service for the burial of his cremains was held in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Oak Bluffs on Wednesday, Oct. 8, and was officiated by the Rev. Vicki Hanjian with military honors provided by the Martha's Vineyard Veterans. Arrangements were under the care of the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home, located on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs. Visit ccgfuneralhome.com for online guest book and information.
Donations may be made to Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557 or Martha's Vineyard Cancer Support Group, P.O. Box 2214, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.