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Keys to a long, happy life: Stanley Hoffman, 100, credits frugality and hard work

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 28, 2020

Editors note: After living through the Great Depression, World War II and now a global pandemic, three men at Rockwood Retirement on the South Hill turned 100 this month.

They all agreed living as long as they have requires some special tricks. Whether it’s huckleberries, whiskey or raising kids, each has their own theory on what it takes. But one thing they all agree on is getting along with the people around them made their lives a whole lot better.

Stanley Hoffman was born on Sept. 23, 1920, in Detroit, where , his father worked for the Packard Motor Car Company. That made having a nice car very important to the family despite the Great Depression.

Hoffman remembers the first car his parents ever bought, a Buick touring car that had side curtains instead of windows.

“That was quite something,” Hoffman said. “My dad worked, like I said, for an auto company, so he was always interested in having a nice car, but we always got a used car because they didn’t feel they could afford a new one.”

Hoffman’s older brother, Erwin, died when Hoffman was just 13, leaving him to pick up his older brother’s paper route.

“I peddled about 100 newspapers and every day I folded them, that’s why this hand is bigger than this one,” Hoffman said, showing off his large right hand.

He credits, in part, hard work and exercise to achieving centenarian status.

“When I looked back, I got more exercise that was beneficial to me than kids who are playing baseball and doing other things where you stand around most of the time,” he said. “I think that built up a good core, and I think that’s my theory. I think that’s partly why I’m here, in addition to giving my parents a lot of credit, too.”

Working at a young age during the 1930s instilled frugality in Hoffman.

“I remember the Great Depression because I was a newsboy and I always had money in my pocket,” Hoffman said.

He would put his money in a beer stein on his dresser as a child.

“When I needed money or something, my mother would take money out of there to buy my clothes,” Hoffman said. “I decided during those times that I was never going to be broke. No matter how much or how little I made, I was going to save something.”

The stein still sits on Hoffman’s dresser.

He went on to become a chemical engineer, graduating from the University of Michigan in 1942 during World War II.

“They were drafting people, but I was an engineer, so I got a deferment to finish my education and to get a job,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman went to work at the Dodge Chicago Plant, where they made B-29 bomber engines.

“Aluminum and steel literally came in one end, and finished 18-cylinder aircraft engines came out the other side,” Hoffman said. “It was a tremendous war effort.”

Eventually, Hoffman was transferred to the oil lab, where he immediately took notice of the pretty girl running the “carbon train,” a chemical process to measure the amount of carbon in steel.

Her name was Phyllis, and not long after the two were married. They had four children and moved to a home on the South Side of Chicago.

Hoffman said “successfully raising four kids” is his biggest accomplishment.

“They turned out well,” Hoffman said. “When I look back I think, ‘Four kids. How in the heck did we do that?’ It seems impossible.”

Hoffman and his wife moved to Spokane in 1989 to be closer to their daughters, who had both moved to the area.

They became involved in a host of local clubs, including hosting Japanese students from the Mukogawa U.S. Campus. Gifts from their students decorate Hoffman’s home.

Phyllis died in 2002, leaving Hoffman to fend for himself.

“Well, for two years I lived by myself, and I got tired of my cooking,” Hoffman said. “I had to do something better.”

So for the past 16 years he has lived at Rockwood South Hill, where his hobbies are reading and doing crossword puzzles.

“The reading used to be real heavy, but I can’t do a lot of pages anymore. But I can do a lot of these dumb crossword puzzles,” he said with a chuckle.

When asked what he’s most looking forward to about his 100th birthday, Hoffman paused.

“It’s just another day. It just happens to have a round number,” he said. “I just feel fortunate to make it and have pretty good health and so forth.”

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