Dwight Elwyn Hoff
Dwight Elwyn Hoff passed away on Jan. 29, 2020. He was 94 years of age.
Dwight was born in St. Francis, Kansas on April 6, 1925. He was the second child born to his parents, Harry and Myrtle (Hanna) Hoff. His older sister, Edra Mae (Eddie) was born two years earlier.
Dwight’s family has had long roots in the Frenchman Valley, his Hoff grandparents emigrated from Sweden and Norway in the 1880s, working with the Burlington railroad in Colorado, eventually settling in Wauneta. Dwight’s maternal grandparents, the Hannas, also came to Nebraska in the 1880s, acquiring land through the Homestead Act (living in a sod house) and farming three miles north of Wauneta.
Dwight’s childhood years were spent in northwest Kansas, but his family always had close ties to Nebraska. His father Harry was a bookkeeper, originally from Wauneta, working at elevators in St. Francis, and later Phillipsburg. While in high school in Phillipsburg, Dwight learned a trade that would later help him in the grocery business – that of a butcher. He took a part-time job at the local Safeway store. One of his first duties was making hamburger. “We would put saw dust and shaved ice into the ground beef—things you couldn’t imagine today!”
Dwight finished high school in 1943 in Wauneta, reconnecting with a childhood friend from Enders who would become his future wife - Gladys Grosbach. Gladys Elaine Grosbach was the daughter of Ralph and Minta (Speer) Grosbach, a prominent farming and ranching family west of Enders on the Frenchman. Dwight would soon be off to war and Gladys off to college. They continued their courtship throughout those years.
The summer of 1943 marked the start of Dwight’s service with the war effort. He knew he was about to be drafted, but figured life would be better in the air versus the ground so he volunteered for the cadet program in the Army Air Corps. Things didn’t go so well though—he failed the eye test—Dwight was color blind! “The dots all looked the same to me.”
Soon after he was drafted. At the physical an announcement was made that the Army Air Corps had openings for “mechanically oriented” men to become bomber flight engineers. That was perfect, and this time he wasn’t going to be eliminated. He quietly asked one of his buddies (who was exiting the eye exam) what pattern of dots he had just seen on the test. Needless to say, Dwight passed with flying colors.
He was inducted into the Army Air Corps, training for over a year in Mississippi and Florida. Dwight trained as a flight engineer/top turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator. He and his crew were all young, nine men aged 18-21 years, the pilot being only 20 years old himself. They would eventually be assigned to the 491st Bomb Group, 853rd Squadron in the Eighth Air Force, stationed in North Pickingham, England.
Dwight flew 28 missions over Germany with the 491st, volunteering for additional assignments when another flight crew lacked a flight engineer. Those extra missions put him past the magic number of 25 missions to return to the United States early, but he remained with his crew. “They were my friends…you couldn’t just leave them there.” He and his crew remained close friends for life.
At the conclusion of the war Dwight returned to Wauneta, more significantly continuing his courtship of Gladys. Gladys was still in college in Lincoln but Dwight was itching to start a career. Since he had “experience” in the grocery business he saw an opportunity in Wauneta. A local grocery/general store (started by Dwight’s uncle Amil) was for sale downtown and Dwight jumped at the opportunity. “It was a small store, all the stock was in the basement, and we brought it up on a pully.” A Hoff was again running “Hoff’s Cash Store.” Gladys graduated in the Spring of 1947 and on July 3, 1947 Dwight and Gladys were married. Four children would eventually be born into the family, Susan, Karl, Lynne and Paul.
Business in the general store succeeded and in 1961 Dwight began constructing a larger building next door (present-day Walgrens Supermarket). He took out a loan with the Wauneta Falls Bank, John Green president. The supermarket, “Hoff’s,” became a success. Dwight had a story that at the end of every month the elder John Green would come by the store (he wasn’t a regular customer) and would tell Dwight “You know Dwight…you have a loan payment due in a few days.” Dwight, seeing the humor of the moment, would tell him “Yes John…I think I can make that payment….one more month.”
In the mid-1960s Dwight saw opportunity in nearby Imperial. A lot was available at the north end of town (a controversy, because businesses had to be downtown in those days) and construction began on another “Hoff’s.” This store (present-day “Super Foods”) had it’s grand opening in 1967. A year later the Hoff family also pulled up roots from Wauneta and located to Imperial. The Hoff’s had a supermarket chain! The Wauneta store would eventually go to Dwight’s partner, Bob Walgren, leaving Dwight to Imperial, where the store became a success.
Crafting, 526 Fence Posts
In 1979 Dwight and Gladys retired from the grocery business, selling their Imperial store to Chuck and Jean Adams. This new-found void in their life created an opportunity that they had thought about for years, that of the “Craft” business. It started slowly. Dwight had always been handy with woodwork so he made the products, and Gladys did the finishing, painting their products with the “Swedish Tole Painting” (folk) method. A few nearby craft fairs at first, then a dozen or more shows each summer. This would be a career that would keep them busy for another 20 years.
Dwight put a lot of craftsmanship into his wood products, but his real delight was wood carving. Early on in his woodworking career a friend brought to him a stack of weathered cedar fenceposts. Dwight was always good at imagining a face or something in a piece of wood, and in these fenceposts he imagined Southwest native American imagery. One carved fencepost led to another….and eventually he had carved 526 of them. Years later at an “antiques road show” presentation at the Chase County Museum an appraiser took one of Dwight’s fenceposts that someone had brought to him and remarked what a “good example of antique Americana” it was. Dwight, sitting in the back of the room, elaborated on that comment….. “as a matter of fact….I just happen to know that wood carver!” He always was ready with a joke.
Dwight was a member Masonic Lodge and a long time member of the United Methodist Church of Imperial, where he taught Sunday School classes for 26 years and was a member of the choir.
His many hobbies included woodcarving, gardening, fishing, painting, joking & traveling the world with his wife, Gladys.
Survivors include his son, Karl Hoff of Carbondale, Colorado; daughter Lynne Uhl and her husband, David, of Carbondale, Colorado; son Paul Hoff and his wife, Jennie, of Austin, Texas; son-in-law Dennis Gill (husband of daughter Susan); two grandchildren, Jolie Gill and Gennette Gill and her husband Austin Haight; great-grandson; Ander Haight; sisters-in-law, Alberta Grosbach and Pauline Grosbach and numerous nieces and nephews.
Dwight was preceded in death by his wife Gladys; sister Edra Mae Wilcox; daughter Susan Gill; grandson Matthew Gill, sister-in-law Maxine Gennaro and her husband Vincent Gennaro; and brothers-in-law Ronald and Donald Grosbach.
Funeral services will be held held on Monday, Feb. 10, at 10 a.m. at the United Methodist Church of Imperial, Pastor Kent Griffen officiating. Interment will follow at Riverside Cemetery in Wauneta.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the United Methodist Church of Imperial, the Chase County Museum or to a charity of your choice. Online condolences can be left at liewer funeralhome.com.