Mike Hoffman, Jr., 98 of Garden City died Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at the Homestead Health and Rehabilitation center. He was born October 5, 1916 in Ellis County, Kansas.
He was a first generation American. His parents, Mike Hoffman, Sr. and Mary Rohleder, were part of the German-Russian emigration to the United States from the Volga River region of present-day Russia. His mother died during the world-wide epidemic of Spanish Flu in 1918. His father later married Clara Nemecheck Dinkel.
After attending St. Joseph’s Academy (now known as Thomas More Prep High School in Hays), Mike moved to Finney County in the 1930s where he began working in the sugar beet fields north of Holcomb.
In September 1940, he enlisted in the 35th Division of the Kansas National Guard for a one-year tour of duty. Because of the outbreak of World War II, his duty was extended more than six years.
Before Allied Forces invaded Europe, Mike served as a military policeman on ships transporting prisoners of war from Casablanca in northern Africa to the United States. In early 1945, the 35th Division joined hundreds of thousands of soldiers in England preparing for the invasion of Europe. His unit crossed the English Channel and landed on Normandy beach in France 30 days after D-Day. Mike was honored with the Bronze Star because of his decisive action in one battle. After liberating several cities in France, the Division was assigned to Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army. In December 1944, as part of Patton’s Army, the Division quickly joined forces with thousands of soldiers at the famous “Battle of the Bulge,” the last major offensive battle by the Germans. From there, the Division advanced to the Elbe River. At the end of the European War on May 8, 1945, Mike and his fellow soldiers celebrated by drinking vodka with Russian soldiers who had reached the Elbe River from the east.
Each year, Mike and fellow veterans from the 35th Division met in reunions to renew their friendships and relive their stories. In 1975, he and many veterans from the Division were given heroes’ welcomes when they toured across France along the route they began 29 years earlier. In 2012, he traveled to Washington, D.C. in one of the “Honor Flights” for veterans to visit the World War II Memorial. He described it as the “trip of a lifetime.”
Returning to Garden City after the war, Mike was marketing agent for Sinclair Oil, selling oil and gas to farmers, contractors, and service stations in the Garden City area. In 1971, he began working at St. Catherine Hospital, retiring at the age of 80.
Mike married Dorothy Heiman at St. Mary Church in Garden City on November 25, 1952. She survives with their children: Debra Mader (Greg), Mike Hoffman (Connie), Michelle Wells (Marlin), Mark Hoffman (Sue), and Rod Hoffman (Barbara), with 14 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren; brothers Dan and Steve; and sisters Maggie, Rita, and Betty. He was preceded in death by sisters Clementine, Maria, Helen and Agatha, and his brothers Victor, Joseph, Frank, Robert, and Tony, and step-brother Fred Dinkel.
He was a charter member of St. Dominic Church in Garden City and proud of his Catholic faith. He was a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the VFW. Mike took immense pleasure in golfing at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course, reading at the public library, drinking coffee with friends, and taking long walks throughout Garden City.
A Vigil Service and Rosary will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, September 18, 2015 at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Garden City. Funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 19 also at St. Dominic Catholic Church with Fr. Reginald A. Urban as Presider. Burial will follow at Valley View Cemetery in Garden City. Friends may call from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday all at Garnand Funeral Home in Garden City. The family requests memorials given to St. Dominic Catholic Church or to St. Mary Catholic Church both in care of the funeral home.