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Mary Josephine “Jo’ Hoffman died in Lee’s Summit on Monday, Jan. 28, at age 97.
Born Mary Josephine Hoffman in Trenton, Jo called herself a renegade. She wanted to be called Josephine, but settled for Jo. Her Grandmother Hoffman, a stiff-backed, English lady, was determined to make a lady out of her and they both enjoyed the battles, each winning about half the time. Jo spent the better part of a year living with her grandparents at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC during her grandfather’s tenure as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture in the Hoover administration. There she skated the back alley of the Mayflower and made great friends with Mike, the doorman.
She was the oldest of three children born to Stuart and Nada Wild Hoffman. She lost her beloved father, Stuart, at the age of seven or eight and her brother Stuart, known as Studie, died in his 20’s in a car accident. Her sister, Annette, died of cancer at Jo’s house. Her “sweet, wide-eyed, hard-working” mother Nada lived well past 100, playing the piano, enjoying bridge and feeding Jo’s employees candy.
The Hoffman family had a large mercantile store in Trenton and later some satellite stores in Gallatin and Cameron. Her mother’s family, the Wilds, lived in Spickard, a spot on the road as Jo described it, where her grandfather was the postmaster and her grandmother actually made baseballs for the kids to use in play.
Her first job at the drugstore in Trenton earned her the distinction of being one of the first to hold a Social Security card. And there were plenty of firsts in Jo’s life, not the least of which was the first woman on the city desk, and eventually assistant city editor, at the Kansas City Star and Times. Her first career goal was to be a cowboy and she and her cousin Charlie spent lots of their youth exploring the countryside on their ponies. Her chaps and her Stetson hat were eternally prized possessions. Jo moved on to the newspaper business, earning her journalism degree from MU and bought the Grundy County Gazette in 1946, where she had the time of her life for seven years.
Jo was inducted into the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and shared her ideas for future publishing success…less “mother/apple pie” stuff, how to balance the free internet access with the paid circulation offering and ended with “just thinking about what I’d do and try makes me want to go right out and buy another dinky weekly.” Her enthusiasm for thinking and life never waned.
Jo was instrumental in getting the Star reporters converted from manual typewriters to computers. In the early 80’s she owned a technologically advanced typesetting company, Rahija and Associates, and when asked how she had learned so much about computers, she responded “I built one,” took another drag off her unfiltered cigarette and kept working. Between stints at the KC Star, Jo taught journalism at USC and spent a number of years as editor for the VFW Auxiliary.
Jo leaves her cousins, Chris Hoffman and his wife, Jackie and Phil Hoffman and his wife, Connie, all of Trenton, Martha Goedert and her husband, Jim of Omaha, NE, Phillip and Birgitta McClanahan of The Sea Ranch, CA, Robert McClanahan and wife, Sarah of Short Hills, NJ, Judith Harrington of Washington, DC, Linda Hurt of Omaha, NE, Suzanne Barnes of Chesapeake, VA and Alice Erickson of Holdredge, NE. Debbie Wilson, her friend and caregiver of 12 years also survives as well as friends Patty Nicholson and Landa Williams. Her long-time friend, Jeanne Greendahl, died in 2007.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at the Resthaven Mortuary at Trenton.