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Patrick Hoffmann, longtime martial arts teacher, dies at 70

Patrick Hoffmann, known to thousands of Sonoma Valley families as a longtime mentor and martial arts instructor, died suddenly on Friday, July 23. He was 70.

Hoffmann ran Sonoma Taekwondo with his wife Barbie for more than 30 years, at first out of the Sonoma Community Center where it opened in 1989 and later at the Vineyard Center on Highway 12. The business closed in 2020 when the financial toll of the pandemic became too much.

Over the course of its three decades, the Hoffmanns estimated they’d taught around 20,000 students and graduated 200 black belts.

“There were multiple generations of Sonoma children and adults that he taught and mentored,” Barbie Hoffmann said on Monday. “He was bigger than life.”

Patrick Hoffmann was born in Southern California, but grew up in San Jose, attending high school in the South Bay, according to his family. Patrick and Barbie lived in Santa Rosa when he took over the taekwondo business from a fellow martial artist at the community center. For a while their only students were their six children, said Barbie Hoffmann.

When Hoffmann first ran Sonoma Taekwondo in the late 1980s, some members of the education community worried that the unfamiliar sport would promote aggressive behavior in youth. In fact, it turned out to be quite the opposite. After Hoffmann invited local educators to come to the studio and view his teachings first-hand, their apprehensions vanished.

“Now (when kids are misbehaving) the teachers say, ‘What would Mr. Hoffmann think about what you’re doing?’” said Barbie Hoffmann.

She said local moms would bring their misbehaving kids to him and say, “You need to talk to Mr. Hoffman.”

Hoffman’s reputation in education circles continued to grow. In 1995, then-state Sen. Mike Thompson awarded Hoffmann a certificate of recognition in honor of his “outstanding support of education” as part of the Sonoma Charter School’s “Salute to Education” event.

Hoffmann’s legacy in Sonoma Valley extended beyond his martial arts and work with youth. As an active member of the local Native Sons of the Golden West, Hoffmann helped parlor No. 111 with charity events – volunteering at the Fourth of July parade and Vintage Festival — and also served as president of the Native Sons and on its information services committee.

And as part of the Santa Rosa Lions Club’s annual holiday dinner this year, he not only helped prepare more than 1,600 meals on Christmas Eve, but also assisted in delivering many of those dinners to needy residents who couldn’t attend the service club’s Christmas Day meal at the Santa Rosa Memorial Veterans Building, according to his wife of 31 years.

“He was just the nicest guy,” added Barbie Hoffman.

Dean Zellers met Hoffmann more than 25 years ago when Zellers’ insurance office was located near Sonoma Taekwondo at the Vintage Center.

He said he and Hoffmann got to know each other in the ensuing years over coffee every morning and from both being members of the Native Sons. He has counted Hoffmann among his closest friends.

“He and I could talk about anything, it could involve politics, kids, medicine, personal stuff, life itself — he was almost like a father figure,” said Zellers. “I knew it would be safe (to share those things) and that’s what good friends are for.

“It hasn’t hit me that this man that I know so well is not going to be there next time I need a hand.”

Ronald Brocco, grand president of Native Sons, lauded Hoffmann for his tireless dedication to the community.

“Brother Pat was one of those brothers who just did whatever he could to help and just be involved,” wrote Brocco in an announcement of Hoffmann’s death to members. “He could never say ‘no’ to anyone seeking his help or assistance, it wasn’t his nature.”

Added Native Sons board member Cynthia Caballero: “He touched so many lives, young and young at heart.”

Yet, throughout his life in Sonoma, at the front of Patrick Hoffmann’s thoughts were always those who had touched him.

In May of 2020, as the Hoffmanns prepared to close their business, they packed up hundreds of photos of taekwondo students who’d come through their studio over the years. Patrick Hoffmann could still only speak to his good fortune.

“This community has been really, really good to us,” he told the Index-Tribune. “I feel so lucky to have made a living working with my shoes off for the past 30 years.”

Hoffmann is survived by his wife Barbie, his six children, one sister, four brothers, 13 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Friends have launched a gofundme campaign to help with the expenses for Hoffmann’s funeral. The campaign is hoping to raise $25,000 for services; funds in excess will go toward living expenses for Barbie Hoffmann. Visit gofundme.com/manage/passing-of-pat-hoffmann.

The Native Sons are also taking donations in Hoffmann’s name to assist with the memorial. They can be mailed to: Native Sons Sonoma Parlor #111, attention: Pat Hoffmann Memorial, PO Box 111, Sonoma, CA 95476.

A Celebration of Life for Patrick Hoffmann is set for Sunday, Aug. 1, at noon at the Napa Parlor #62 of Native Sons Hall, 937 Coombs St., Napa.

Email Jason at jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.

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