Lawndale Mayor Harold Hofmann remembered as fiercely loyal to the city he loved
Lawndale Mayor Harold Hofmann would have enjoyed his final ride along Hawthorne Boulevard because all the lights were working perfectly and the landscaping looked nice, his granddaughter told several hundred people who gathered to say goodbye to him on Saturday.
Hofmann, 81, died of natural causes at his home last week and was buried on Friday. On Saturday, city residents, friends, family and colleagues gathered at the Lawndale Community Center to remember the South Bay's longest serving mayor.
"To me, my grandpa is synonymous with the word Lawndale," Stephanie Hofmann said. "Grandpa always had room on his lap for a granddaughter and four or five dogs."
And he always made time to ensure the infrastructure was working well in the 2-square-mile city that he led for 22 years as mayor and 10 years before that as a City Council member. He often patrolled the city for graffiti, broken traffic signals and cleanliness, friends and family members said Saturday.
"There's not one inch of this city that Harold didn't know like the back of his hand," said state Assemblyman Steve Bradford, D-Inglewood, who used to represent Southern California Edison for the city. "If he called about a street light out, it was out. And he knew how the wiring was done too."
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca recalled how Hofmann pressured him to turn a vacant church building into a sheriff's substation so that the city would have greater police presence in 1997.
Carson Mayor Jim Dear remembered how Hofmann told him to join the Los Angeles County Public Library Commission and he did — simply because Hofmann told him to.
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, the former Los Angeles County supervisor who oversaw Lawndale, remembered that Hofmann never passed up a chance to seek out new county and state resources for the city.
"He was on us all the time," Burke said. "He made sure Lawndale got all they needed."
South Bay Rep. Maxine Waters called Hofmann a humble man with a vision and a tireless drive to improve the city.
"He never demanded anything," Waters said. "He'd just say: ‘What about those earmarks? Do you think we could get some of those earmarks for the community center?' "
The $14 million center opened last year and, on Saturday, the third floor was packed for the memorial, which included several renditions of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and a video montage of soldiers and patriotic images set to "God Bless America."
Hofmann was deeply religious and patriotic. He served in the Army before starting his own sewer-contracting business, Hofmann & Son, in 1955. He never retired and, on the day he died, he had planned to go on a tour of a water treatment plant with his wife, Doris.
The main thread throughout Hofmann's life was loyalty, speakers at his memorial said. Primarily, he was loyal and responsible to God, his wife, children, grandchildren, work, his church and the city of Lawndale.
"There are not a lot of Harold Hofmanns anymore. They don't make them like him now," Bradford said. "He wasn't a politician. He was a public servant who happened to be elected."
Waters echoed that sentiment: "There was nothing tricky about Harold," she said. "No plotting, no games. I'm from Washington, D.C., where they're the game-players of the world."
Hofmann ran more than a dozen successful election campaigns without accepting campaign contributions.
As a child and teen, he went by the nickname Sonny Boy and proudly rode a horse to school every day, tying it up in front of the schoolhouse before classes. He met his future wife as a teenager, and the pair enjoyed roller skating and, later, rescuing Boston terriers, traveling the world, camping, hiking and going for rides in their boat. They raised their family in the house where Hofmann grew up, and they were lifelong members of Hawthorne Church of the Nazarene.
"Sixty-one years later, he'd still bring her coffee in bed," Stephanie Hofmann said. "And he'd still, sometimes, pinch her butt."
Hofmann also had a goofy side, said his family members. He routinely threatened to "steal the best bite" off the plates of his children and grandchildren.
Despite all his years in public service, he got nervous about giving public speeches because he often bungled the delivery. And he would soothe his family with a little tough love, by saying: "It'll get better when it quits hurting," Stephanie Hofmann remembered.
"My dad loved serving the city," Ted Hofmann said. "He never had another mailing address except when he was in the service. He wasn't perfect but, if there was a best-dad contest, my dad would win. Those things about him that annoyed us will be the things we are going to miss."