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WWII Soldier, CRC Member Finally Laid to Rest

Hofman Repatriation
Members of the U.S. Army and family of Private First Class Donald Hofman lay his remains to rest Oct. 8, 2022. (Inset) In 1946 Hofman's home church, Kelloggsville Christian Reformed Church, recognized his death.
Chris Meehan

A blustery wind blew as a committal service for Private First Class Donald Hofman began at Winchester Cemetery in Byron Center, Mich., on Oct. 8, 2022, more than 70 years after he was lost in battle.

More than 100 people gathered under the cloudy skies, among them Leonard Hofman, former general secretary of the Christian Reformed Church and the younger brother of Donald, who served and died in Europe during World War II. 

Also on hand for the service were members of Kelloggsville CRC, where Donald was one of 44 members who fought in the war and one of two who lost their lives. In fact, Rev. Ron Fynewever, former pastor at the church, took part in the service.

Only recently did the U.S. identify, using DNA technology and other means, the remains of Donald who was killed in action at the age of 19 in the mountains near Reipertswiller, France, on Jan. 21, 1945. The family received his repatriated remains Sept. 30 at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Michigan.

At the interment, Rev. Kathy Smith, the daughter of Leonard and a professor at Calvin Theological Seminary, officiated the service. 

“This day we are putting my Uncle Donald to rest 77 years after he was killed,” she said. “We are so grateful to the Army for its work and its commitment to leave no soldier behind.”

First Sergeant Tara Gamble of the U.S. Army also spoke, giving further details of events surrounding Donald’s death. During what was called Operation North Wind, his unit was isolated and surrounded by German forces and only two soldiers escaped from the battle alive.

“Only this June was the Army able to identify the remains we had as those of Donald Hofman,” she added. “I’ve worked closely with Kathy and other family members as we prepared for this day.”

Related: CRC Pastor Presented with Deceased Brother’s War Medals (Feb. 24, 2017)

Rising from his chair in front of the flag-draped casket for his brother, Leonard Hofman, now 94, spoke briefly, recalling that he and Donald were the closest in age of the eight Hofman siblings, and slept in the same bed until other family members grew up, got married, and moved out, allowing each to have their own bed.

“We walked to school together,” said Leonard—and he recalled that his brother fired up the furnace when they got to school in the winter.

“He was a faithful and energetic person. When he was drafted into the Army, I went into service for the kingdom (of God) and he for the country.”

After Smith conducted the committal, military honors were conducted by the U.S. Army, including a folding of the flag that covered the coffin, the firing of rifles and the playing of Taps, which sounded mournfully across the windy cemetery on that October afternoon.

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