Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Dear Man: Ross Hoffman

A beloved brother in our church and university community passed away last night in a freak accident. My Turkey compatriot Ross Hoffman was working in a trench in his yard when the wall collapsed in on him.

Ross on far right
Ross was an ebullient sort of person. It's no coincidence that he served the university for a long time in development.  He loved people, was optimistic, and was the kind of guy who would stand faithfully with a person till the very end.

I think I first got to know Ross through some close friends of my parents, Marceil and Kenny Bostic. Marceil just passed away a couple weeks ago at 95.  To say she was a fan of Marion College (IWU's old name) is an understatement.  By the way, Terry Munday stood by her side from the time when she was a spunky woman calling all the shots till she had lost practically all her friends and strength to time.  She had long since gone from being a donor to a dear friend of his. He wasn't even working for the university any more, and he was taking care of her almost daily.

That's the kind of person Ross was too. They don't make development people like that any more. He had a natural optimism that was hard to bring down. President Barnes put him in charge of a think tank at IWU in the old days where he guided the discussion of the most strategic thinkers in the university to brainstorm its future course. In Turkey, we were reveling at the fact that this group wasn't on any organizational chart, that it had subordinates sometimes and not their superiors in the chain of command. It was, in other words, wonderfully lateral in nature, an embodiment of the kind of innovation and pragmatism that contributed to those years of immense success at IWU.  And Ross was right there at the center of it.

Then he had the idea of taking over Pro Prints, a business here in Marion that will make about any kind of sports gear, T-shirt, banner, etc.  When we were in Turkey, Ross was on Skype each night keeping a key project going... and of course talking to his wife, Karen, who was with their daughter Jolie and their new grandchild at the time. Again, he was the kind of guy who was willing to take a chance and throw everything into it to make it work, because he believed in it.

I didn't really know Ross very well, though, until we went to Turkey for 10 days. He had been trying to get Keith Drury to go for years, and I'm so glad it worked out. Ross and I were the internet junkies on the trip.  The night near Ephesus where he and I sat out in the motel hall with iPad and laptop to get internet reception was typical. It was a little one hall motel behind a gas station, with no where to park because of a wedding going on.

And Ross took pictures.  In fact sometimes he took pictures when I wasn't sure people would want their picture taken... women in carts, people at weddings, caves at Cappadocia with signs saying not to take pictures. :-)  We teased him when he thought our best bet for good directions to a hotel was "young, modern looking women."

And he was the connoisseur of getting a hotel room. Keith and Dave Ward forced me to go with him on more than one occasion so they could watch me squirm as Ross skillfully bargained with hotel managers over the cost of a room for the night. At Nicaea we went through about four hotels till Ross' showdown with an equally skillful manager who looked to be running all the shady business deals of the city.  We ended with a very reasonable rate at one of the best hotels along Lake Nicaea.

I especially enjoyed Ross talking about his discussions with his son Logan over theology.  Ross came from relatively conservative Baptist roots, I believe.  Meanwhile, Logan grew up Wesleyan here, studied ministry at IWU, and did his MDiv at Princeton. I could see they had great dialog together. Ross really appreciated Logan's insights and was even changed by them. It says something when a father can engage his son on such a deep level. Logan and his wife are ministering in New Zealand right now.

Pray for Logan, his sister Jolie, and of course Karen, Ross' wife. Pray for Jason Ewer too, who was in the trench with him when it collapsed. Jason was only covered to the waist and is okay.

It is the great mystery of life that you can be having a conversation with someone one moment, and they be gone the next.  The finality is jolting. It doesn't compute with our minds, the irreversibility of it.  So we cherish his memory down here and hope to see him again in eternity. It was a testament to how dear a soul Ross was that a cadre of dozens of people assembled at the hospital last night, long after he was gone.  He is already dearly missed.


Dave Ward said...

Well written, Ken. I laughed and cried. The finality of it seems impossible to believe.

Ross, we will miss you. However deeply or casually we knew you, you brought joy and optimism to our lives. I hope you're enjoying something even better than baklava.

Ken Schenck said...

I failed to mention how much he loved the people in Turkey. Having tea with Memesh at Lystra and talking to the man at that baklava shop were the real highlights of the trip for him. He just really loved people and didn't know a stranger.

Nothing More, Nothing Less... said...

Love your piece, Ken. It is so fitting. I knew Ross as a Father since my daughter is married to Logan. He always treated Emilie like she was his own child. He was one of the most caring, loving Fathers I know, and he was an earthly model of our Heavenly Father. He loved without abandon, and like the Father, applied gentle pressure when it needed to be applied. I am saddened that my future grandchildren (some day) will not have the opportunity to know this man of God. However, I am comforted that the essence of who he was in Christ will be passed on from generation to generation.

Ken Schenck said...


Clint Ussher said...

Thank you, Ken. Well written and very fitting. You are right... he is already missed.

Anonymous said...

Wishing divine strength ,comfort and faith to the family and to the brave young man with the cute accent who I had just picked up from the airport at the bottom of the world when the call came in.