On July 24, 1932 Elhart Christ Hoffman was born to Christ and Christine Hoffman in Martin North Dakota. El was the 2nd of 5 children. He had an older brother, Wilbert and was followed by the twins, Don and Donna and his youngest brother, Ralph. When El was 3 years old the family moved to Lincoln Valley a rural town on the plains of North Dakota. At the age of 12, El’s father passed away following an illness. Christine was determined to keep the young family together despite offers from extended family to take the boys in, declaring “I lost my husband, I am not going to lose my kids too.” Ultimately, the family moved east to Juanita, where El worked on a farm as a hired hand, and even purchased a small farm of his own.
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In 1963, El attended the wedding of his brother Wilbert, who had moved to Laurel, Montana. While there he met his wife to be who was a friend of his new sister-in-law. Later that year El moved to Montana and bought a farm outside of Park City. Joanne and El began dating and were married on October 17, 1964. El and Wilbert formed a partnership and farmed together starting a Grade A dairy in 1967 and milked together until the 1974, when El assumed the dairying operation.
El and Joanne were blessed with a son, Kevin on February 23, 1972. He was their only child, and spent most of his time following his dad around as he worked on the farm. El was always interested in innovation. He worked with DHIA to track and improve his cow’s milk production, looking through computer printouts in the early 1960’s. In 1971, he was one of the first in the area to adapt a center pivot irrigation system. In the 80’s he began harvesting his crops using a bagged silage method to try to get better feed value from the crops he produced on the limited acres he had. As the years passed, Kevin increasingly helped on the farm until the two formed a partnership in 1992. For the next six years El, Joanne and Kevin ran the dairy together. In 1997 after 30 years of milking cows 7 days a week 365 days a year they sold the cows.
Kevin and El continued to farm in partnership for the next 20 years but at a much more manageable pace now that the cows were gone. Kevin finished his degree, married his wife Gayle, and found employment but continued to work with El during the summers as they put up hay. Even though El was “retired” he didn’t slow down much, irrigating, doing field work, cutting hay, and working on many of his projects kept him busy every day. In 2003, his granddaughter Abby was born. This brought a whole new dynamic to El’s life as he enjoyed helping Joanne babysit. Abby was followed by Jed in 2005. Both of his grandchildren brought El tremendous joy. Even in his later years the sight of his grandchildren would light up his face. As they got older he would enjoy spending time with them, and going to their activities.
Elhart is survived by his wife Mary Joanne, son Kevin, daughter-in-law Gayle, granddaughter Abigail, grandson Jedidiah, brothers Donald (Paulette), Ralph (Barb) and sister Donna Lou Hutchins, sisters-in-law Anna May Hoffman, Betty Yeager, brothers-in-law Raymond (Char) Frank, Sam (Mildred) Frank and multiple nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents Christ and Christine Hoffman, his wife’s parents Alex and Katie Frank and his brother Wilbert.
The family extends their gratitude to the care given by the amazing folks at Stillwater Hospice: Matt, Therese, Ryan, Jodie, Paula, Shannon and Steve as they partnered with us over the last few weeks. Thanks also to El’s two Visiting Angels Cindy and Linda. You all were kind and gentle and helped El, Joanne and Kevin through a difficult season.
Services are being held 10:30 a.m. December 21 at Faith Chapel, 517 Shiloh Road followed by interment at the Park City Cemetery. Condolences for the family may be shared at smithfuneralchapels.com.