Howard H. Hofbauer, 100

Oct 08, 2012

Surely there is a new star burning brightly in the sky tonight, celebrating the passing of our beloved "Bumpa." Adored since his arrival in Brooklyn, N.Y., by his parents Henry and Lillian Hofbauer and later, three younger sisters, Lillian, Viola and Evelyn. "Howie" became the root of his family tree. He was born with a curious mechanical mind and an unerring sense of duty and responsibility.

A child of the Great Depression, he left the eighth grade to work in a salvage scrap yard, then overhauled Model A's on the streets of the city to help support his family. Howard was the original "wheel man" collecting parts and pieces to construct midget race cars, successfully winning enough races to pay for his parents first home in St. Albans, Queens.

Fate was sealed at a bowling alley, by a chance encounter with a rosy cheeked young lady from Waite, Maine. Howie had found his "Alice" (Phelps). He walked her home and then right down the aisle in March of 1942. Married less than two months, Howard was drafted and the two were separated for three years.

Howard departed from Fort Dix, N.J., to North Africa, there training for the invasion of Eastern Europe. He served as a stationary engineer operating steam engines and also as an automotive mechanic 2nd echelon repairing military vehicles. His tour of duty took him from Africa to Sicily, Italy, France and then Germany. His "company" was part of the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp; like many men of his generation, he remained stoic and private about the devastation he witnessed throughout the War, rarely discussing his experiences.

An older wiser man arrived back from the Front on the Queen Elizabeth in October 1945 and earnest work began on creating a family. A lovely daughter, Dianne, was born the following July 1946. Deciding to set down roots, Howard and Alice went "down home" back to Waite, Maine where Howard worked as a Ford mechanic. With a small stipend from the military, he enrolled in private pilot training at the Princeton Airport.

However, the midcoast area soon beckoned with the promise of greater job opportunities and established family ties. The three moved to a tiny house on the Back Belmont Road where Howard began working for P. B. Hustus fabricating, welding and doing other mechanical work. Another blessing arrived during this time, a beautiful daughter, Judith Ann. In 1952, having outgrown their little house, the Hofbauers purchased the McKeen homestead on Route 137 in Waldo where they both remained for the rest of their lives.

Howard's aptitude for "fixing anything" became well known throughout the county, more than one suppertime interrupted by bags of parts arriving needing to be magically reassembled. As a close neighbor to the original Waldo Fire Department he retrofitted a former Army vehicle into Waldo's first off-road fire truck.

Howard's love affair with the automobile defined his career, he was a master mechanic working at Crosby Dodge, Lothrop Ford and finally Kallis Ford in Belfast. The garage doors remained open at home in Waldo, where eight N Ford tractors, Thunderbirds and Willys Jeeps purred like kittens. Upon retirement Howard met cancer head on, with determination, will and the love of family he won this battle to remain a survivor for another 35 years.

Generous with his time, his grandchildren spent countless hours with him, bouncing around Waldo in his red Jeep, learning to break down tires with a bumper jack, and filing the points in a Model A. Howard remained passionately engaged in life, socializing with friends and family, and remaining in his own home despite his failing eyesight.

He developed a dear friendship with Maxine Cross who filled his remaining days with light and vigilant care. Inspired by his pursuit for life are daughters, Dianne and Judy, grandchildren Darcie, Danielle and Raymond; great grandchildren Avary, Chapin, Autumn and Eli as well as niece Arlene and nephews Larry, Jack, Timothy, Steven and Daniel. A private family service is to be held. Online condolences may be offered at www.ripostafh.com.

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