"Motored 150 miles today. Weather breezy and sunny. Ham sandwich for lunch." His letters to his nieces and nephews paid the same attention to detail. "Temp. on lanai: 75 degrees. Pool warmer, at 82."
It was that penchant for paying heed to every small detail that made the B-17 pilots of the Army Air Force 398th Bombardment Group in World War II so indebted to him.
Mr. Hofert served in Nuthampton, England, with unparalleled dedication on a ground crew that made sure the planes were safe and sound.
"Many times they worked all night on the plane to have it ready to go the next morning," said pilot Paul Roderick, veteran of 32 missions. To be closer to the planes, Roderick said, the ground crew "built a little shack alongside of our parking space and lived there instead of the 'Tin Hut' where they were assigned."
Years later, Roderick and other pilots and their families embraced Mr. Hofert as a hero at reunion gatherings of the 398th, which he attended faithfully, including the most recent reunion in September. "He was one of the rare and true gentle men," said Sharon Krause, Roderick's daughter and also reunion organizer for the bomb group.
Earl J. Hofert, Jr., 86, a gentle, modest man with a pride for detail, a delightful sense of humor and a special fondness for his nieces and nephews and their families, died in Indianapolis on April 14, 2009 at St. Vincent Hospice.
The son of Earl Jacob Hofert, Sr., and Lena Marie Strietelmeier was born Aug. 17, 1922 at the family's country home in Linton, Indiana. He attended Linton High School and studied engineering for a year at Purdue University before joining the Army.
After World War II, he returned to Purdue to graduate with an engineering degree in 1949. He remained active in the Purdue alumni group, attending meetings in Indiana and Florida during his retirement years.
After graduation from Purdue, he took a job with Indiana Power and Light in Indianapolis, and then worked for Link Belt Bearing Division, retiring from Link Belt after a long career there. He spent many winters in Bradenton, Florida, before moving back again home to Indiana to live fulltime in Brownsburg.
Mr. Hofert was an avid Indiana history buff, volunteering regularly at the Indiana State Museum, starting at the old location on Alabama Street in Indianapolis and proudly showing visitors around the museum's current home in White River State Park, pointing out the old toys and other items of interest.
Throughout his life he enjoyed wooden toys and puzzles and passed along that love to his great-nieces and -nephews, delighting in sharing items he bought them from the state museum, the Indiana State Fair and Cracker Barrels he visited on his travels.
He was a member of the Scottish Rite and St. Peter's United Church of Christ in Carmel.
Mr. Hofert is survived by his beloved family: His two sisters, Dorothy Letterman Mengering (Hans) of Carmel and Hazel Baughman of Kokomo; three nephews: David Letterman (Regina), Carl Baughman and Alan Baughman (Sue); three nieces, Janice Letterman Millholland, Carol Baughman Sulanke (Thom) and Gretchen Letterman (Bill Shelton); five great nephews: Bill Millholland, John Baughman, Daniel Baughman, Liam Letterman Shelton and Harry Letterman; three great nieces, Bryn Millholland Mooth, Sara Baughman Colvard and Annagrace Letterman Shelton; great-great niece, Maria Rose Colvard; and step-grandson, Brian Bradshaw. He is also survived by his dear friend Marge Ashby and special caregivers Emily and Brad Rockwood and Angie and Rob Hovermale.
Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday (April 17) at Flanner and Buchanan Mortuary, 325 E. Carmel Drive, Carmel.
A memorial service will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Zion Evangelical United Church of Christ, 416 E. North St., Indianapolis.
Graveside services will follow at Fairview Cemetery in Linton.