Hoffberger remembered as leaving an `impression upon our hearts'

500 pay respects to Orioles owner, his accomplishments

April 13, 1999|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

There was no point, and maybe not enough time, in listing all of Jerold C. Hoffberger's accomplishments, Rabbi Rex D. Perlmeter said, leading off the eulogies at the former Orioles owner's funeral yesterday.

"We would be here not only until Yom Kippur," said the rabbi, "but until the one after."

No matter. The 500 mourners who went to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation to bid goodbye to Hoffberger knew about his resume.

They knew he owned the Orioles at the height of their pennant-winning success. Knew he owned the brewery that produced the iconic National Bohemian beer. Knew he gave millions of dollars to charities. Knew he did much more.

Beyond that, many knew Jerold C. Hoffberger as "Chuck," the caring husband, father, uncle and past congregation president who took time to call his nephews, who wrapped his in-laws in bear hugs -- even if it meant squeezing his loved ones against his eyeglasses, which always seemed to be hanging from his neck by a cord.

"Some of us have permanent indentations on our chest," his brother-in-law, Elliot Schewel, said at the service for Hoffberger, who collapsed and died Friday. "And we have a permanent impression upon our hearts."

Perlmeter said that when he became rabbi of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation a few years ago, Hoffberger was among the first to offer his advice.

" `You're going to need a Kitchen Cabinet, and I'd be happy to be a part of it,' " Perlmeter quoted Hoffberger as say- ing.

He recalled studying the Torah with Hoffberger. "And if you were lucky enough to be rabbi," Perlmeter said, "you got tickets to the playoffs."

That line drew a laugh. So did talk about the hand gestures that signaled the score of the Orioles games to Hoffberger during High Holiday services at the temple.

Hoffberger wore many hats in his 80 years. But as the Oriole caps worn by some yesterday in the modern elegance of the synagogue's main sanctuary showed, he was perhaps best known as the benevolent leader of the Orioles.

"He treated us as if we were immediate family," said Elrod Hendricks, longtime Orioles player and coach. "Everybody he met, he left a part of him with them."

At the service, Hendricks sat next to Orioles manager Ray Miller. "He was always there for us," Miller said. "I just wanted to be there for him."

Others from Hoffberger's Oriole family at the service included former players Jim Palmer, Don Buford and Tippy Martinez, and announcer Chuck Thompson.

Politicians from all levels of government, including Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, were in attendance. U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes called Hoffberger "a real doer. They're fairly rare, and he was one of the best."

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger described Hoffberger after the service as a "giant of a man" whose interest in social issues and politics never waned. Concerned that the Democrats were in a tight race for the governor's mansion last year, Hoffberger called Ruppersberger for his take on the campaign.

He said Hoffberger's impressive record of success -- and philanthropy -- commanded respect. "When you got a call from Jerry Hoffberger," Ruppersberger said, "you returned it right away."

During the service, David Hoffberger recalled his father as "an ordinary man who did extraordinary things." He held a copy of broadcaster Tom Brokaw's book, "The Greatest Generation," which celebrates the contributions of World War II veterans such as Jerold Hoffberger, who served in the Army in Africa, Italy and France.

Brokaw autographed the book: "To Jerold, one of the greatest."

Perlmeter described how Hoffberger seemed inseparable from his wife, Alice. He added that Hoffberger's vision touched nearly everyone he met.

Comparing Hoffberger's inspiration with a grand slam leaving the ballpark, he said: "Chuck, you lifted us up. It's up, it's up, it's out of there."

After the service, Hoffberger's body was taken to its final resting place, Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery in Reisterstown.

Pub Date: 4/13/99

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