Dolores Herrity-Hoffman was only five feet tall, but she lived a giant, joyous lifethat we’ll never forget. She passed away in the early morning of September 4, 2022,three weeks short of her 99th birthday. Her life was a romantic, action-packed adventure, with lots of comedy between the thrills. Those who were lucky to knowher remember her as kind, funny, and brave.
Mom was born in1923 to an IrishCatholic family in Clinton, Iowa.She was the thirdof seven children,six of them girls.Her family, oneof the wealthiestin Clinton at thetime, lost almosteverything duringthe GreatDepression,includingClinton’s biggesthouse, but held onto the town’s biggest bakery, where all the kids worked before and after school.Her father, John “Ooter” Herrity, once played football against the legendary JimThorpe and was called “the best little man in football” by his teammates on a semi-pro football team. He was the football coach at St. Mary’s High School and keptmany people in Clinton alive during the Depression by handing out free bread.Mom’s mother, Anna, was consumed with raising her seven kids as John constantlyworked at the bakery.
Mom was passionate about her sisters Patricia, Mary, Madonna, Mollyann, andMarjean. They were her best friends. Although they lived all over the U.S. as adults,the Herrity girls always found time to get together and drink, dance, laugh, sing, andtell stories. They loved going on trips together and tried to see each other as much aspossible. They were so funny together: Silly funny.
Mom was heartbroken after her oldest sister Patricia passed away from leukemiawhen she was a young adult, leaving behind a husband and two kids. We rememberMom’s sadness and how it made her more protective of her sisters. Her youngestsister, Marjean, told us that Mom was “her favorite person in the world” and like a mother to her. Mom was also close to herbrother John, the oldest sibling, who visited ourfamily often.
Mom was amazingly brave. As soon as shegraduated from nursing school at age 19 in1942, she joined the U.S. Army and went to thePhilippines to work on the front lines, caringfor our soldiers. Unlike our Dad, who was a WWII pilot, Mom rarely talked about the war.She said she saw and heard too many horrificthings to talk about it. During her time in the Philippines, she was almost killed when a bullet whizzed through her tent and right over her head during a raid by Japanese soldiers.She also saw headhunters walking through her base with human skulls strung from their waists.
Mom continued to work as a nurse throughout her life. Towards the end ofher nursing career, she provided hospice care for dying people. During the 1980s,she worked with AIDS patients when the cause of AIDS was unknown and many nurses were afraid to touch them. We are all proud of our Mom for bravely putting her own life on the line to care for other son the battlefield and during the AIDS crisis, when others looked away.
Our parents truly loved each other throughout their lives. Mom and Dad met when they were children, dated in high school, and joined the military and served on different continents during World War II. Mom made it back to Iowa first.When Dad came home from the war, Mom was the first person he wanted to see. He went in uniform to her house, where one of her sisters claimed he was the handsomest man she had ever seen until then. He raced upstairs, found Mom, planted a big kiss on her lips, and pinned his pilot wings on her chest.
Then came marriage, college, law school, and six kids in 14 years. They lived in 17 homes in seven states, built four houses, and for 67 years managed to laugh, dance, and care for each other. That is a romance.
There were epic family adventures along the way,including a cross-countrycamping trip from Tacoma,Washington to Florida with two cars, an eight-man tent,one dog, and six rowdy children from ages six to twenty. There were grizzly bears just outside our tent the first night in British Columbia and a serious car accident inAlabama. Organizing, entertaining, and providing meals for the family on this trek took the patience of Job and the herding instincts of a border collie. Coincidentally,late in life, Mom raised a blue merle border collie: her beloved Millie.
After surviving the horrors of war and the chaos of raising a large family, Mom seemed to roll with whatever weirdness her children or nature threw her way. From coming home to a bathtub filled with baby alligators caught behind our house, to afive-foot-long, poisonous water moccasin dropping from a tree onto her back while she was gardening, Mom acted as if it all was just a normal occurrence and went on with her day. Mom was also very funny. She raised six kids, mostly on her own. Our Dad, an executive, traveled a lot for work, so day-to-day childcare was left to Mom. It was hard work. Therewas six of us, the first four only a few years apart.
But we laughed a lot. Did we mention our motherwas very funny? Here are some examples.
Mom claimed she made up the word “pipsqueak.”She knew she really didn’t, but she found it delightfulto try to convince others that she did.
When one of her children complained that their feet were too big, she told them it was a blessing because it made them more under
standing. When another complained their nose was too big, she replied, "Well, it goes so nicely with the rest of your face, which is also too big.”
She loved to sing and dance. She made up her own dance moves, which were always quirky, and then she’d teach them to us so that we could dance to Latin or Big Band music in strange rhythmic unison. She loved music and inspired a love of it in her children.
She loved to take crazy pictures in which she wore funny hats or funny clothes or brandished a machete. One time she laid in bed while our brother Tom took photos of dead cockroaches on her face while she screamed in mockhorror. She put those photos on the fridge.
Mom loved to read. She often cut clippings out of the newspaper of what interested her. In her later years, she’d forget about those piles of clippings under her bed. Oneday Teresa found them and said, “Why Mom, why?” Mom laughed and said, “I just so respect the written word.” She certainly did. She inspired a love of reading in allof her kids.
One of our cousins recently told us that on one of their sister trips to Alaska, Mom lost one of her hearing aids to a moose. We’re not sure how this is even possible, but somehow, with Mom, it was.
Dolores Hoffman was deeply loved and will always be missed. We remember her forher love of life, her quirky sense of humor, her zest for adventure, her constant kindness, and the joy she brought to everyone around her. She is survived by her sixchildren, Jim, Janet, Mark, Teresa, John, and Tom; her grandchildren Emily, Monica,Michael, Lesley, and Rachel; and her great grandchildren Ezrie, Naomi, Liam,Dylan, Carson, and Adrian.