Making a Difference in Our Community
CCF has been on the Hoffer’s radar for years...
and they have given anonymously to a number of the nonprofits the foundation supports. They decided on the unrestricted naming donation recognizing that the CCF is more aware of all the needs in the community and their methods are designed to achieve maximum results for the highest number of people with the lowest internal costs possible.
An innovative inventor and successful entrepreneur, Erik Hoffer created over 20 original product technologies in and around cargo security and authenticity. He holds many patents, including 15 for what he called “tamper evident tape,” which reveals unauthorized access to a protected object, and four others for transportation security products.
Hoffer founded CGM Security Solutions in 1977 to manufacture and market his patented technologies for products that deal basically with deterrents. He has worked with the Department of Defense and operated two factories in New Jersey, where the Hoffers lived for some 20 years.
The Hoffers supported numerous charitable causes in New Jersey and began rescuing abused and neglected German Shepherds in 1992.
Lingering effects of nerve damage and illness Erik suffered while serving as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in Vietnam necessitated that he move to a warmer climate.
In 2003, two years after they arrived in Florida, Diane joined the Animal Welfare League (AWL) board of directors, and she remained on the board nine years.
“We started re-homing German Shepherds through the AWL 10 years ago,” she said. “We’ve now expanded to shelters from Sarasota down through Collier and Hendry counties.”
The Hoffer Family Foundation founded Southwest Florida German Shepherd Rescue in 2007. Now the largest such rescue in Florida, the program has found homes for nearly 1,000 purebred German Shepherds.
The Hoffers, who both have degrees in industrial psychology, have been married 27 years. They established their foundation as a legacy for their daughter Kelly.
Their recent gift will allow CCF to put more funds into the community in many different avenues, including community initiatives, community investment grants, education initiatives and disaster recovery.
Donor funds are invested along with CCF’s managed assets. When it comes time for annual scholarships, distributions or grants to be made, donors can rest assured that recipients and nonprofits are closely vetted and monitored. We thank Erik and Diane Hoffer for their investment in Charlotte County and the legacy they have created.
Making a Difference in Our Community
Virginia B. Andes
Each of these offerings is important to the residents of Charlotte County in different degrees and levels of interest. Today we are focusing on one facility that is a rare treasure, a collection of gems, both in the artifacts that have been donated and through the human interest, experience and education that it offers.
The Military Heritage Museum fittingly opened its doors on December 7, 2001, Pearl Harbor Day. Their mission is to promote respect for the United States Military and our military heritage through the understanding of the sacrifices made by our veterans, living and dead.
The Museum was established to honor veterans from every branch of the armed forces through every era in which they served. Their goal, “to educate and inspire current and future generations of Americans and to remind everyone that “FREEDOM isn’t FREE”, is being artfully accomplished by offering displays of authentic artifacts and the sharing of individual stories. Tours are conducted by veterans, many of whom also donated funds, their personal artifacts, time and skills to prepare the many interesting displays.
With a collection of over 30,000 artifacts the museum had outgrown it’s previous location and is now housed in a new, much larger building located at 900 West Marion Ave., Punta Gorda. The additional space is allowing the Museum to display rotating exhibits. Presently, in the Special Exhibits Hall, you will find their opening exhibit, The Seminole Wars, featuring artifacts from this often overlooked conflict.
In addition to educational displays, programs, lectures and events, the Military Heritage Museum, has been participating in the national Veterans History Project. This has been made possible thanks to volunteers assisting the group, “Witness to War”, and has facilitated the recording of testimonies shared by so many veterans that it took three days to complete. With the large number of artifacts, each one with a story, that’s no wonder!
The Military Heritage Museum is classified as an educational facility by the State of Florida. It offers 4 military-themed galleries, a 247-seat theater, library and research center, and the Future Force Academy, with its activity areas featuring air, land, sea simulators as well as virtual and augmented reality experiences. The Museum has had visitors from all 50 states and more than 35 countries.One recent visitor described it best in a recent Google review posting, “What an amazingly great experience! Locals and visitors to Punta Gorda need to put this new facility to the top of their lists of things-to-do in town. From lectures and movies, to hands on flight simulators, extensive libraries, and displays of all stuff military, just go see for yourself…Su Miscia”.
An endeavor as encompassing as this costs money. Over the years as the Museum gained interest and prominence more residents took notice. Donations and funding have assisted in providing for operating costs. There is, however, one benefactor who has a story that gives us a most interesting perspective on what the WWII effort meant to her.`
Thanks to Don Moore’s “War Tales” articles we will remember much about Wallie’s life. Ruth D. “Wallie” Spatz was a talented artist. At the age of 15 she discovered that she could create silhouettes. With the use of her eyes and a pair of small pointed scissors she cut accurate likenesses of her subjects that reflected their personalities as well. She devised a method that allowed her to cut in duplicate. Wallie was born and raised in Mason City, Iowa until she was twenty when her family moved to Los Angeles, CA in the era of WWII. Soon people began to take notice of her silhouette talent. It wasn’t long before the Hollywood Canteen, a place where servicemen and women could go to eat and be entertained before deployment, contacted her. She was asked to come and create silhouettes for the service people. Wallie sat at a small table for 4 to 5 hours, cutting a silhouette in duplicate in 3 or 4 minutes. The service people were delighted; they had one likeness for parents and one for a girl or boyfriend! Her most difficult silhouettes were done for injured, many of them seriously, soldiers at military hospitals.
Soon the USO in Los Angeles asked her to come there, she complied and felt fortunate that she could do her war effort and have a paying job running a dress shop, as well. At the Canteen, Willie, the ‘Silhouette Queen’ as she was called, met many of the Hollywood stars who came to volunteer. Bette Davis, Jimmy Durante, Jimmy Stewart, Patti Page, Jackie Gleason, Buddy Ebsen, the Andrews Sisters, Milton Berle, and Sammy Davis, Jr. were often there. Subsequently she appeared on the Mike Douglas Show and was commissioned to make likenesses of Pres. Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson as well as Pope John Paul II.
While traveling home on the street car she met Hugo D. Spatz. They started a friendship that continued through daily letters for two years after he was sent to Normandy, landing on the second day of that campaign. Upon arriving he saw action and then went on to maintain tank gun sights, adapting the lenses to fit various types, so that they could be sent back into action as quickly as possible. Hugo arrived home on Thanksgiving Day in 1945, they were married the next day.
Wallie was grateful that Hugo had returned. No one will ever know how many silhouettes, created by Wallie, were the last likenesses that loved ones had received from soldiers who didn’t return.
After the war Dr. Hugo and Wallie moved to Cleveland where she continued to create her silhouettes, although Hugo wasn’t happy about his wife working. Charlotte County became their home in the early 1980’s. Dr. Spatz passed away in 2000 after decades of community involvement, Wallie Spatz in 2011 at the age of 95.
The war years held meaning for Wallie and the Military Heritage Museum was important to her since it represented that special time in her life. She established the Dr. Hugo D. and Ruth D. “Wallie” Spatz Endowment Fund both to honor her husband and to benefit the Museum. It was Wallie’s desire that as many WWII veterans as possible be honored in their lifetimes and that the lesson taught by the Military Heritage Museum, which was also important to her, “FREEDOM isn’t FREE”, would be continuously shared.
Gary Butler, Executive Director of the Military Heritage Museum adds, “The Museum’s leadership had an incredible vision for what the new Military Heritage Museum could become if it could relocate to a stand-alone facility offering more space for expansion. The same vision that was shared by Wallie Spatz years ago. It is fair to say, that it is unlikely we would be in this new facility if it were not for Wallie’s transformational gift to the Charlotte Community Foundation on behalf of the Military Heritage Museum. Between her vision and generosity and the Museum Board of Directors’ commitment to one day bring that vision to life has inspired others to contribute to the Museum, resulting in this magnificent Museum and a legacy for current and future generations to now benefit from.”
Marilyn Smith-Mooney, current Museum Board President and Board President when Wallie was engaged with the Musuem added, “Wallie was the dearest friend and an unwavering supporter for the Military Heritage Museum, she will always be remembered by the Museum for her passion and support of our nation’s veterans.”
Wallie’s gifts included immediate funds and matching funds. To date the total amount of the contributions is over $1,100,000. Sadly she passed away before she could see the new location and what the Museum now offers. Her legacy continues to benefit the Museum, honor the veterans and her husband, Dr. Hugo, as well as herself. By helping to support this treasure of the Military Heritage Museum, the Fund has helped to provide a window into military life. The daily experiences, ordeals, sacrifices and strong commitment of those who served in the United States Military have been showcased in a meaningful tribute.
Wallie and Dr. Hugo would no doubt be very pleased. The Charlotte Community Foundation is proud to have been given the honor to administer the Dr. Hugo D. and Ruth D. “Wallie” Spatz Endowment Fund that helps to ensure that all visitors to the Military Heritage Museum have the opportunity to take a journey through this preserved military history, “Whereby all who come to discover and connect, leave inspired to remember and honor those who serve.”
Just as a creative hand-cut silhouette of a loved one is a special keepsake to be cherished, the Military Heritage Museum is an experience to remember, “Lest we forget”.
For more information about the Military Heritage Museum please visit www.freedomisntfree.org. Please visit the Charlotte Community Foundation’s site at visit www.charlottecf.org.
Making a Difference in Our Community
The Military Heritage Museum fittingly opened its doors on December 7, 2001, Pearl Harbor Day… More
Virginia B. Andes
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