Hedda Hoffer - December 30, 1935 - October 15, 2013
We are sharing elements from Hedda's funeral and providing a virtual Shiva for those in Hedda's life who are unable to be with us in person.
We think you'll enjoy the images from Hedda's life - from her childhood home in Stevens Point Wisconsin, and her life in Montreal, Phoenix, Denver, and of course her lifetime home in Israel.
We actually learn something from our parents. As I prepared this reflection on my mother’s life, I just now realized where I learned how to “live”.
My mother lived her life very fully. Her life was filled with connections with people in multiple communities, and within each one of those communities – she developed deeper connections.
Lived the first 21 years of her life in Wisconsin, the next three decades in Montreal, 12 years in Phoenix, and the last 15 years here in Colorado. Plus she “lived” in Israel from 1970 to just a couple years ago, as she had made more than 30 trips to Israel to visit my sister Shelley and her family as well as the friends that she developed over the decades. Hedda was a Zionist her whole life.
And one of her deepest connections that she maintained was her connection to family. Of course you’d expect one to talk about a Jewish mother’s devotion to her children, and that’s true , we all have our own little pedestals– but her connections ran deeper.
My mother came from a family where her mother had 8 sisters – 9 girls in all – bringing dozens of first cousins into the mix. Her father had 3 brothers and a sister – again with more first cousins. Plus my mother nurtured the relationships with my father’s side of the family, and to this day – our entire family is deeply connected.
In each of her communities she developed and maintained friendships and business relationships. I have received dozens of phone calls and emails from each of her communities going back to friendships from my mother’s childhood.
Hedda moved to Montreal when she was 22 years old, and gave birth four times in 5 years. Plus she instantly embraced my older sister Alana who was a bonus from my Dad’s first marriage. She developed friendships in the 1950’s that endured to the day she died. Plus she made a home that was always at the center of our friendships. My siblings and I have all received calls from our friends recalling the times in our home filled with kids. Our home was the home where we congregated, and the home was usually stocked with Mom’s famous chocolate chip cookies. By the way – the key secret to her recipe is using Crisco as the shortening!
It wouldn’t be unusual for one of my siblings or me to show up at home, and have mom sitting in the kitchen talking with one of our friends who had just dropped by. Friends would stop by and would find Hedda a comforting place to talk about problems with their parents.
In Montreal, Mom pursued volunteer work with the Golden Age association and Meals on Wheels. She received awards for her work at Golden Age.
When Mom decided to leave Montreal and move to Phoenix, it was a well calculated move. She didn’t want to be a burden to any of her sons, all of whom had moved out West – so she found a spot that was between California and Colorado – close- but not too close.
She quickly made connections and friendships. Within a couple of years she was well entrenched in the Phoenix community, and in 1996 – she chaired a major community Mitzvah Day – where close to 2,000 volunteers in the Phoenix area Jewish community were deployed to provide volunteer services at dozens of organizations.
When Hedda as 62 years old, she decided that she wanted to be close to her family and moved to Denver – close to her three sons and their families. She joined Temple Sinai and loved her connection with this community and her Chavurah. She was not afraid to move to a new community, and made deep friendships.
When she found the perfect job at Temple Emanuel working in the gift shop, and for many years until she was no longer able, was the manager and built the gift shop to one of the premier Judaica retail shops in the area. Mom was well connected in multiple Jewish communities within the Denver Jewish community. Everybody knew Hedda!
When Mom was first diagnosed with her cancer 18 months ago, one of her biggest concerns was how she was going to run the gift shop. She had a remote computer installed in her home to monitor what was going on. One of the saddest moments in the past year when Dr. Pluss told her that she wouldn’t be going back to work.
We are very fortunate to live in Denver with excellent medical care. We are grateful for the excellent care that Hedda received that allowed her to live far longer than anyone had expected, and she never experienced pain during her illness. Our family thanks Dr. Bill Pluss and his team at National Jewish , Dr. Feiner and his team at Rose Medical Center.
And we are blessed to have had Mom spend the last few months of her life at Shalom Park nursing home, and are very appreciative to all of her friends, and our family who came to visit on a regular basis.
My mother made new connections even well into her 70’s. Her new friendship with her neighbor Robert Albert was great – as we’d often find Robert and Mom watching TV together as she had her oxygen tube following her across the hall to Robert’s condo.
Plus one of the most meaningful new connections and deep friendships that my mother made late in her life was with Daisy Flynn – who visited Hedda several times a week throughout her illness – and acted as my surrogate older sister.
Mom – thank for bringing Steven, Andy & Shelley into my life, and thank you for loving Alana from the first moment you met her. You taught your children well by living a full and deeply connected life, values that are being passed on to Hillary, Nofar, Shaked, Jazzmin and Sam. I love you and I’ll miss you.
Words written by Shelley Shahar (daughter - living in Israel) and delivered by Andy Hoffer (youngest son)
For teaching by example.
For your humor as you did so,
From school projects, to baking, volunteer work. you were by our side, and we were by yours
You taught me how to drive- where we grew up, and where I live now that translates into survival skills!
You taught us the meaning of community. You were deeply involved with each, and you invited them into our home. You provided us with so many. Our neighborhood, our schoolmates, and our Jewish community.
You opened our holiday tables to all- as long as you new someone, they were never without \a place at our table for holidays. You were a mother figure for oh so many.- As a teenager- it made we cringe just a bit- when my friends all wanted to come to our house- just for you.
Thank you for letting me be the GIRL! I grew up with so much confidence- because of you There was nothing I could not do.
Because of you I am who I want to be , because of you I am beautifully confident, because of you I love, because of you I learn. because of you , I never compared myself to others, and love who I am.
Every event was with purpose and an opportunity to bring out the best, from invitation to loot bag you never left out a detail, and always found a creative way to make things all the more special. There is a difference between setting a table, and decoration a table- you taught me to be a pro at that, but I still wont take the credit for the fabulous tables at each my my own childrens bar/bat Mitzvah celebrations as You were the supplier of the final fabulous touches with the accessories you brought.
You found solutions to everything. So creative.
You claimed that you new nothing about computers, internet, and so on, but you did a brilliant job when it came time to finding Alef-bet cookie cutters on line for Nofar and Shahkeds teacher for a special event at school- you had met her but once, yet became friends wel enough that she could ask you for help.
It starts with that smile of yours, then the shine starts in your eys when you listen, then it’s the warm touch of your understanding heart that allows you to relate on every level.
Then you let go of something intimately of yours about yourself , totally sharing a piece of you, as you welcome a piece of them when you go to the question that seems ordinary, but you make it feel personal .How could anyone not feel loved by you!
You beam generosity. You give love and attention to every detail. You hear what people tell you and you take a piece of it to your heart, and store it in your memory for future gifts to give, dates to remember, or concerns to share.
You are loved by all that have met you- you make everyone feel so good about themselves.
I am so grateful for all the time you spent here, and the friends you made here in Israel too. I am surrounded by my community who loved you over the years .
Thank you, for my Judaism, thank you for letting me be the Girl, who would learn by your side in the kitchen at home, in the kitchen at the synagogue, who would sit by you during services.
Thank you for my Zionism. Thank you for yours. Without me living here I would not have all the opportunities that I do to be enveloped by your love, and the love of your family members who make it to the Holy land on visits, and always look for Cousin Heddas daughter. Thank you for your huge family- they prevent me from ever feeling alone, and yet always loved even more- through their love for you.
Thank you for loving me so much that you would not let me see you suffer- even when I came to Denver for your knee surgery – you got into even better shape as to not let me do any work around you. You were so afraid of being a burden, you so wanted to protect me.
Thank you for not leaving us suddenly, and for giving us all an opportunity to better ourselves, and our relationships. Thank you for giving me the opportunity again and again to have thanked you in person.
Mom, you are my hero. So strong, so full of love, and so not afraid to have shown it.
This is a note from Bill Rudnick, the oldest of all of the cousins....
It’s yet another day of sadness for all.
Hedda, Larry and we Rudnick siblings had the good fortune to “grow up” in the same city and therefore shared an unusual “cousins” closeness during our early years. Our families were always together for holidays, birthdays, religious events, etc. Our mothers outdid themselves in preparing for these special times. The bond that was created continued as we all took separate paths in life. When we exchanged birthday greetings every year, Hedda always called me as her ‘big brother’.
Hedda periodically visited us in Topeka, then in Florida. When Sonnie and I would occasionally travel to Colorado, the three of us would have dinner and enjoy reminiscing about our Stevens Point history, including those times when Aunt Bess lived with the Rudnicks as did Aunt Florence live with the Zenoffs while attending Central State Teachers College and also Aunt Rae worked for Uncle Bill for a brief period.
We all loved you Hedda, and will miss you as we miss Terry, Linda, Michael and, of course, our parents.
I am a 7th generation born here in Israel, and as such a "native", I always say that when talking about quality and love to my only country Israel, Shelly is much more an Israeli than me. Why? Because she chose to be here, a part of us, and I was just born into it...she went through all those difficulties, and crises of an immigrant, a newcomer, an "Alia" Zionist fulfiller !
Her choice was not easy for the rest of the family, left as if without their daughter, far from home over the Atlantic...and Israel is as far, and even risky as can be. nevertheless her family supported, and accepted her choice, she moved, and established roots, a new life, and a beautiful family here. More than others, Hedda was the most loving, involved, connected, identifying, and smart about it! she was always with us, at the worst times and the happiest as well, so did we especially while she fought so bravely at this damn illness.
She invested so much in us as a devoted mother and grandmother, that we may say, she was an integral part of our family every day, and even every moment since Shelley came here!
We'll never forget her entering, showing up, so noble, beautiful, elegant, happy as if she was just dropped by from her flat next door to us...entering our house after every annual long flight of hers, even though so tired from the voyage here, spreading her overflowing packed suitcases all over our small room, and with her bright, glowing blue eyes showing everybody their special gifts, that were collected so devotedly and loving all over the year before...and I even got my special piece of "Yarlsberg" cheese packed in special case for me ! never disappointed...
Always a compromiser, a peacemaker, sensitive, understanding, communicating...she made friends everywhere instantly, and I am still amazed to realize how many people knew, and appreciated here ! she was so integrated with us here, that I used to tell her that with Shelley, she is actually another natural Israeli...I also remember one important sentence that I used to tell her especially when she became so sad before her departure - "this is not the end of your visit, dear, it's only the beginning of your next trip to us"...this always helped to stop the tears.
So sadly, I will not be able to tell her that any more...yet, she will always stay deep inside our hearts, in a very special place of love for a rare woman.
When I die:
Something of mine, Something of me
Will die with you
Will die in you
When you die,
Something of yours in me,
Something of you that is mine,
Will die with you
We are all part of a living tapestry,
That if one of us leaves us something dies in us
Something remains with him
Rabbi Richard Rheins - Eulogy - Temple Sinai, Denver, CO
A remarkable character: smart, funny, quick wit, loyal, tenacious, a bit of an edge that naturally comes to one who cuts to the chase and calls a spade a spade. Hedda Hoffer, our dear friend, the loving mother of Larry, Andy, Steve, Shelley, and Alana; the loving grandmother of Hillary, Jazzmin, Sam, Nofar and Shaked, has breathed her last and still we cling to our memories as they swim in our mind’s eye, for we are not yet quite ready to let go.
Hedda was the first child born to Bill Zenoff and Jean Kaplun. She was 8 years older than her brother Larry (who, unfortunately, is unable to be here). Raised in central Wisconsin, Hedda was blessed with many very close cousins, especially on her mother’s side. Her brother Larry shared with me that he was always aware what disruption he caused poor Hedda. Here she was, an only child, a sweet princess, and now, all of a sudden she was expected to be the constant babysitter for little Larry. Her parents were workaholics and virtually left all the parenting to Hedda. Larry notes that for nearly 14 years she did just that. Not to say that it was easy. As you all can imagine, Hedda was the most popular girl in her High School. Still, wherever she went, she had to schlep and tend to her brother. Of course, being a creative sort of gal, she found a way to make the most of the situation. Twice a year her parents would go off on a vacation to Las Vegas. They’d leave poor Hedda back home with her brother Larry. But not to worry Hedda would throw the most fabulous and elaborate teen parties for all of her friends. And she would sternly warn Larry that if he uttered a peep about these wild blowouts, he would regret it for the rest of his life. He never said a word. Indeed, Hedda was always a bit bossy with her brother (are you surprised?), telling him, “Don’t wear those clothes, put on this,” and “Take off that silly looking fedora!” This was the tone she used even when he was almost 70 years old. But it doesn’t matter because he knew that she cared for him and took care of him and that every word was spoken with love.
As a beautiful young woman, only 21 years old, she went to Las Vegas to visit mishpochah. Her uncle, a lawyer, was working on a custody battle for Herky Hoffer from Montreal. Being a caring soul, he inquired of Herky, “Hey, would you like to meet my niece?” He did, they fell in love, and Herky and Hedda Hoffer made their home in Montreal with little Alana, who she always doted on and loved as her own daughter. In quick succession, Herky and Hedda were blessed with the birth of Larry, Steven, Andy, and Shelley Hoffer. When I say quick succession, I mean quick succession! Hedda gave birth to four kids in five years! With 5 little ones to take care of, Herky and Hedda worked very hard. Still, no doubt remembering what it was like to have her parents leave her all alone, Hedda devoted herself to the family. In fact, their home was grand central for all of the kids and their friends. Doesn’t that sound just right: Hedda holding court to a home full of children, giving a safe and fun place for all of their joyful, raucous exuberance?
In time, she earned an Associate Degree in Gerontology and threw herself into volunteer work. When her son Larry moved to Denver and her son Andy to California, she moved to Phoenix, to be equidistant to both! In Phoenix, she became very involved in her synagogue, organized their Mitzvah Day and made a ton of friends. Still, when Andy moved to Denver, she picked up and moved here so she could be close to both Andy and Larry.
It’s our great blessing that she joined Temple Sinai and became fast friends with so many of us. Hedda was always a worker and she worked tirelessly to turn the Temple Emanuel gift shop into a first rate store. Yes, she worked there, but her friends, her Chavurah, and her spiritual home were 100% Sinai!
Everyone who met Hedda recognized immediately that she had impeccable taste and a great eye for quality. Her beautiful condo at Candlewyck was spectacularly decorated with exquisite artifacts and pieces that fit just right. Even when her health began to fail and her home had to accommodate large oxygen tanks and air tubes trailed along the floor, Hedda moved with grace and style and made it all seem as just a part of the décor.
I first met Hedda about 8 years ago. She immediately impressed me with her sharp mind and great sense of humor. As we all know, Hedda’s sharp mind was also quick with sharp comments: she shot straight and preferred candor to cute. Self-deprecating but proud, fiercely loyal but sensitive, both demanding and generous, Hedda charmed and wowed and entertained and regaled us all, and she won our hearts.
God almighty, how she loved her kids and grandkids! When we met, she went down the list of what was the latest and greatest with them all. She showed all the pictures and shared her worries, along with boasts of their accomplishments. She noted her many friends and loved ones who doted on her; her wonderful friends, including Daisy Flynn, Elaine Long, Rose Trachtenberg, her former daughter-in-law Pam Hoffer who truly loved her like a daughter, her Chavurah friends, her neighbors at Candlewyck who tended for her so dearly. But most of all, she loved her kids and grandkids.
With Steven fighting a grave illness and Hedda’s wonderfully loving daughter Shelley so far away, much of the weight of care and planning has fallen on Larry and Andy. Larry, you have been especially heroic in caring for mom and maintaining the channels of communication that kept us all informed. You even created a fabulous website about the Kaplun women: Mom’s side of the family. What a tribute that is to your mom and to your family.
As Shelley wrote, though miles and circumstances may separate the loving parts of this family, your beloved Hedda has held the heart and soul of this family together. With her passing, the torch passes to you. Her brother Larry told me that Hedda made him promise that he would be there to take care of her children. He made sure that I knew how important it was for me to mention that fact.
Although he is not here, Steve is struggling, and Shelley is in Israel, this family can and will remain strong and loving. That is and will forever be Hedda’s great legacy. We will cherish her memory, her strength, and her goodness. And let us pray for the strength and welfare of her beloved family. Amein.....top