Passing of Aunt Ann marks end of era
When my aunt, Ann Hoffer Turgeon, died a few weeks ago, it marked the end for the last remaining member of the Jacob and Christina Hoffer family from the little town of Lyman, South Dakota, although the Hoffer grandchildren and their offspring still make up most of the town's population and Lyman doesn't seem destined to turn into a ghost town anytime soon.
Ann and my mother, Leone Hoffer Fisher, and oldest daughter, Aunt Frieda, left Lyman in the '40s. The youngest boy, Bob Hoffer, left Lyman for the Army in the '50s. Christina died in the '60s. Jacob and the eldest son, Leo, died in the '70s. This is the chronological timeline of the family of Jake and Christina Hoffer from Lyman, South Dakota. A family history is never complete, however, without listing all of the members. A young infant son was born into the family sometime in the '20s, but he died shortly after childbirth and left this world without us ever knowing his name.
The family story I will share with you today is about the last living member of the Hoffer family, my Aunt Ann. First of all, I never called her Aunt Ann like I did Aunt Frieda. The two words just never flowed together very well. I guess I must have just called her Ann, although I really don't remember. What I do remember is this: As a young lad growing up in the '50s, I was fortunate to spend part of my summers on Ann and Seraphine Turgeon's farm. They first farmed south of Chamberlain near Bijou Hills, but the place I remember best was the farm they spent most of their life on north of Chamberlain near the town of Shelby.
My summers were awash with typical farm chores. My aunt would often give the task of gathering the eggs in the morning to me and my cousin, Charlene. A second daughter, named Cheri, came later in life so I never had much chance to play with her, but Charlene and I more than made up for it. I remember the day Charlene caught her leg in her bicycle chain. She was crying and had more than enough blood running down her leg to lead me to believe a spanking would be awaiting both of us. I ran to get Ann and as soon as she arrived on the scene, the crying stopped and all was well. That is really who she was, a caretaker. I don't ever remember her yelling at us or dishing out punishment, although as young kids we surely must have deserved some.
Ann was more the type that made sure us kids were kept busy and content. She often accomplished that with food. As kids, we were plied with cookies and homemade bread. Later as adults, whenever my wife and I would visit Ann, we left with full bellies.
I remember one weekend when my wife and I returned to my hometown of Chamberlain, South Dakota. I hadn't been there in some years so naturally I had many stops to make. One of the stops included a birthday party for an old friend that evening where we were promised roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy. Earlier that day, we stopped at Arby's for some fast food. We both ordered roast beef with french fried potatoes. Sandwiched in between the two meals was a noontime stop at Ann's where she had prepared us a huge dinner of, you guessed it, roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy. Although I tried to explain the upcoming birthday banquet, my wife and I soon surrendered, realizing that the one thing on which Ann would never compromise was the serving of a meal.
A final reflection on the life of Aunt Ann: She was my mom's younger sister and being barely two years apart in age, they were very close friends. People tell me they were called the Hoffer girls and one was never seen without the other. I am proud to say they remained very close throughout their lives. When Ann lost her husband, Seraphine, at a much too early age, it was my mom who was always by her side during her times of need.
Ann was fortunate to live out her remaining years alternating between her daughters' families. Although the last decade of her life was played out in sunny Florida, I'm sure Ann would tell you she remained a South Dakotan at heart.