Geraldine Louise Hoffman – Jeri, as she much preferred – was born August 8, 1939, in Wildwood, New Jersey, the only child of Carl and Adelaide Hoffman. She spent as much time at the beach as possible and developed friendships that endured for life.
Wherever she went, Jeri was always a Jersey girl. She moved to Florida with a friend after high school, finding work, jumping into adulthood and chasing adventure (as she always did!). Her first son, Carl, was born there, followed by Darren, Jon and Julie. Those early four have the wildest of the sibling stories, growing up among orange groves, canals, alligators, bad houses and good friends. Most of the time, Jeri was a single parent, relying on resourcefulness, creativity and grit to take care of her kids – which she always, always did. She was a waitress. A watchmaker. A whatever-maker, selling ceramics and bumper stickers and paintings and more to keep everyone fed and together.
After Florida, Jeri found her way to Arkansas and had two more children, Kari and Tawni. She settled in Pleasant Plains, then Bald Knob, where she seemed to meet everyone in the whole state as a waitress at Kelley’s and, later, Who Dat’s. She served as the Homefest parade director for years, building fanciful floats and creating elaborate costumes, which were only a little more flashy than her actual clothes. She loved a sequined hat and could not understand why anyone would wear gray.
Jeri did find her way back to South Jersey for a time to take care of her mother. She stayed there for years after her mom passed, working at a produce market and growing flowers in the yard of her childhood home. She made frequent cross-country trips in her old van, making some of her children nervous until she arrived safely in Panaca, Nevada, to see Keith Holton – her longtime love and eventual husband.
Finally, Panaca became her permanent home, and she loved that tiny desert town like she loved the beach. Maybe even more. She and Keith explored, enjoyed target practice (Jeri was a fantastic shot!), grew vegetables, baked cakes and raised chickens. Keith had a major stroke and she cared for him until his death three years ago. Jeri wore his ashes in a bullet around her neck and missed him every day. Somehow time went on, and she continued the life she loved – healthy, busy, stubborn and free-spirited, right up until the very end.
At 83, Jeri left us on a Monday night – April 17, 2023 – just after having her photo taken with Jon, smiling and waving from the hospital bed. She lived how she wanted, and died how she wanted, too: no disease, no surgeries, no machines. At her little desert house, there was a coffee cup on the table, new plants in the garden and baby chicks in the shed. At the time, Jeri’s middle son Darren and his youngest daughter had just been in a very serious car wreck (we thought for a time we might also lose Darren). He was finally released from rehab at the end of June, and was able to start taking a few steps in July. So, instead of a funeral for Jeri in April, we are celebrating her life in August – just in time to mark her very first birthday in Heaven. We just know she’s living it up.
Jeri was very proud and protective of her family – six children, their spouses and significant others, plus dozens of grands and great-grands. She loved us all, and we feel it still.
A celebration of Jeri’s life was held on Saturday, August 5, at 2pm at Central Baptist Church in Bald Knob, 1507 West Center Street.