A few weeks ago I was sitting in my office in the barn and the phone rang.
“Hello, Judy. This is Margret Hofmann. I’m 85 now and I don’t postpone things. So. When am I going to see you?”
We settled on a date. I told Margret I’d pick her up and bring her out to the Ranch, which she’d last seen in 2001. Unbelievably, that was also the last time I’d seen Margret.
Margret and I met in 1980, when I began attending the Friends Meeting of Austin (Quakers). She was clerk of the meeting.
Quakers must either reach consensus or have objections withdrawn in order to make decisions, not the easiest sort of business meeting to run, but Margret was good at it.
At first I was frankly intimidated by Margret’s efficient, non-nonsense manner. John Belushi’s Samurai skits were a staple on Saturday Night Live in those days, and some of the younger Friends took to referring to Margret as “Samurai Quaker Clerk.”
With great affection, you understand.
Margret came of age in Germany during WW II in a time, and in a place, where there was little reason for belief in the goodness of mankind. Her Jewish mother was interned and murdered in a concentration camp.
Margret lived through the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden. She decided early on that violence was never the answer to anything, and dedicated her life to working for the good of mankind.
In the scary days after our daughter Kelly was born with Down syndrome, Margret made the trek several times a week from south Austin to our home in northeast Austin, bringing casseroles and interesting things to read. She was the friend you turn to, the friend who was there.
|Sterling, Judy, Kelly & Margret
How could I have let nine years pass without seeing her?
I picked Margret up one Thursday morning and we headed for the Ranch. We quickly got up to speed on family news, and into lamentations concerning the headlong decline of the English language. I waxed eloquent on the joys of diagramming sentences, but since Margret’s mother tongue is German she never had the pleasure.
“Better than Sudoku,” I said.
We had lunch with Margret’s daughter Heidi and toured Three Oaks Mine, where Heidi is human resources director. Jerry had been trying to connect with us all day so he could see Margret, so we came back out to the Ranch.
Margret and Jerry happily discussed the various large post oaks. Margret is famous for her work saving large trees from the developers in the 70s and 80s, and was recently honored by the City of Austin by the creation of the Margret Hofmann Oaks park, a tiny triangular cluster of old oak trees located on a quarter acre opposite the Council Chambers, where she once served.
Margret has struggled with heart problems for the past quarter-century and is frail in body, but indomitable as ever in spirit. She claims her cardiologist keeps her alive “for the stories,” and she has them in abundance so we confidently look forward to having her around for years.
It’s been a high honor of my life to know her.