Kathryn E. Hoffman, 86, roller skating performer

June 05, 2006

Kathryn E. "Betty" Hoffman, a skater who performed with popular big bands in the 1930s and '40s, died of heart failure Thursday at Cromwell Hospice in Towson. A Bel Air resident for the past several years, she was 86.

Born in Philadelphia, Kathryn Cantwell was 16 when she and a partner formed a roller skating act known as the Top Hatters. They traveled across the U.S. and Canada, performing with Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Eddy Duchin and Frank Sinatra.

"The bands set up a platform for the skaters," said her daughter Patricia Freiberger of Bel Air. "They called her `the little Quaker' because she started on the road so young."

The skating partnership ended when her partner was drafted during World War II. She took a job at Bendix Aviation in Philadelphia, where she met and married James W. Hoffman.

A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, 654 Hatboro Road, Richboro, Pa.

In addition to her husband of 63 years, a retired aerospace engineer, and her daughter, survivors include another daughter, Dianne Hoffman of Newark, Del.; a brother, Michael Cantwell of Ambler, Pa.; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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