January 18, 2017
8:58 am

Tool & Die Pioneer Has Died

You could tell almost immediately what mood Frank Hoffmann was in. The big, full-tilt grin typically would give away the fact that he was doing fine and was happy to see you. If that was missing, things were probably not faring too well, or he had issues that needed to be dealt with. Fortunately, most of my contact with Frank generated the big smile that was absolutely infectious.

Frank Hoffmann was an industrialist by trade. He was a self-made manufacturer who provided good paying jobs for dozens if not hundreds of men and women from our community over the 20 years that he owned and operated Hoffmann Die Cast Corporation in the Hawthorne Industrial Park in the City of St. Joseph. Sadly, Frank died last Friday at the age of 70, surrounded by his family at the Hanson Hospice Center in Stevensville, following a lengthy battle with cancer. 

Frank was born in Wels, Austria on March 31, 1946, after which his family emigrated to the United States the day before the 4th of July of 1956 at the age of 10. He went on to graduate from Benton Harbor High School with the class of 1965 and advanced to his associate's degree in tool & die design and manufacturing from Lake Michigan College. Hoffmann then launched a four-year apprenticeship run, first with the former Pemco Die Casting Corporation in Bridgman and later with the former Paramount Die Cast plant in Stevensville. He rose to the top of his trade, becoming President of the Local Chapter #39 of the North American Die Casting Industry.

Long driven by the desire to own his own die cast plant, Frank stepped up to the window in March of 1986 with the help and support of many business associates and the full faith and backing of his lovely wife, Diana, and he launched Hoffmann Die Cast Corporation. In the initial stages he was in a small facility in Benton Harbor, but quickly outgrew that venue and eventually relocated to the former Dynac casting plant in St. Joseph. 

While the Dynac plant was what he needed at the time, his passion for tool & die drove the company to new heights and the building underwent a series of upgrades and expansions evolving into one of the most modern casting plants in all of Southwest Michigan.

Ten years ago, after 20 years at the helm of Hoffmann Die Cast, Frank realized the opportunity to sell the business to his largest customer and his two business partners, and they continue to successfully run the plant to this very day. In June of 2006, Frank & Diana departed the business world to afford more time at their vacation home in Nevada, more time with immediate family and grand kids, and time to sharpen his skills at the game he loved the most -- golf. In fact, he was a member of both Berrien Hills Country Club and Point O'Woods Golf & Country Club locally as well as the Spanish Trails Golf & Country Club in Nevada. He loved the Point the most, and was an avid player.

Frank is survived by his wife, who was also his high school sweetheart, Diana Lynn Reschke Hoffmann. They were married more than 50 years, and by his four-legged friend, "Riley."

Additionally, Frank is survived by his daughters Tammie (John) McElligott of Berrien Springs, Tina (Fred) Fernau of St. Joseph and six grandchildren, Mike McElligott, Marine Corporal Scott McElligott, Samantha McElligott, Alex Fernau of the U.S. Navy, Eric Fernau of the U.S. Air Force, and Libby Fernau. He is also survived by his brothers Louie (Judy) Hoffmann of Zephyr Hills, Florida, Joe (Barbara) Hoffmann of Stevensville, Charles Hoffmann of Baroda, and Helmut (Bridgett) Hoffmann of Coloma along with many nieces, nephews and cousins. 

Frank was preceded in death by his son Frank Jr, his parents Robert & Theresia Hoffmann, a brother Rudy Hoffmann and a sister Anna (David) Marks.

Mass of Christian Burial will take place this Friday, January 6, 2017 at St. Joseph Catholic Church at 211 Church Street in St. Joseph with the Rev. Robert Creagan officiating. A private burial will be held at Calvary Cemetery at a later time. Friends may visit with the family on Thursday, January 5th from 5 until 8pm with a prayer service being recited at 7:30pm at Starks & Menchinger Chapel & Cremation Services, 2650 Niles Road in St. Joseph.

Memorial contributions may be made to Caring Circle, Berrien County Cancer Services or the Humane Society of SW Michigan. 
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