Semper Fi, Sgt. Marge. We’ll miss you.
I had only lived in Idaho Falls a few weeks when I met Marge Hoffman.
My wife and I, along with our two small children, were in the meat department at Albertsons when we noticed an elderly lady standing there trying to decide what to buy.
We began chatting with her and quickly learned this was a very special (and friendly!) woman.
Marge told us she was 90 years young and that 70 years earlier, she had joined the U.S. Marines while living in Pennsylvania. None of her girlfriends enlisted but she wanted to see the world – knowing she’d be one of the few women serving our country.
I asked Marge if I could do a story about her and a few months later, I showed up at her Idaho Falls home. She had long lived alone since her husband died in 1997 and welcomed me with open arms. There were scrapbooks, old photos from her life and memorabilia laid out for me to see.
Marge spoke about her time serving in World War II and being stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. She worked as a paymaster and performed office duties with other female soldiers. Over 16 million Americans served in the war, but only 350,000 of them were women. As the minority, Marge said women in the military were often discriminated against and treated poorly.
But the harassment didn’t bother her. She developed a feisty attitude and became known by the phrase, “Sergeant Marge is in charge.”
After the war, the military sent Marge to Virginia for about a year. When she was discharged, Marge married Allen Hoffman, a U.S. Air Force veteran. The couple moved to Idaho Falls and Marge became involved in the community.
She was a member of the Bonneville County Veteran’s Memorial Team and was always ready to hold the red Marine Corps flag. Marge held offices in the Gem State Parliamentary Club and AARP post 442. She served on the Homeless StandDown committee at the Idaho State Veterans Home and received appointments from former Governors Phil Batt and Dirk Kempthorne as one of the five Idaho Veterans Affairs Commissioners. She volunteered at schools and worked at the INEL for 20 years.
On that brisk autumn day, months before her 91st birthday, Marge and I visited for several hours and she told me how much she hated aging.
“I do everything myself, but I hate being old,” Hoffman said. “Last month they took away my drivers license, because they thought I was too old to drive. I hate it!”
We posted Marge’s story on Veteran’s Day (you can watch it in the video player above) and dozens of news organizations around the country picked it up. It was featured on CNN’s homepage and I called Marge to let her know people everywhere now knew who she was. She was flattered.
Marge eventually moved into the Lincoln Court Retirement Community, where she died earlier this month. Her funeral was last Thursday at Hope Lutheran Church. She is survived by her son, Steve Hoffman, and three grandchildren.
Sgt. Marge made eastern Idaho better. She touched countless numbers of people and was someone to look up to. I’m thankful for that chance encounter at Albertsons and that I was able to share Marge’s story with the world.
As the sign outside Papa Tom’s pizza reads today, We love you, Sgt. Marge.