TARPON SPRINGS — They spent their last days in hospital rooms separated by a single wall.
They didn't speak — they couldn't. Their illnesses had come to play out in sync, and they were both weak.
Their family believes they were still intertwined.
"There's some kind of beautiful spiritual significance about 60 years of marriage," said their son, Edward Hoffman Jr. "She was waiting for him and he was waiting for her."
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As a tall, handsome pilot fresh from the Army Air Forces, Edward Hoffman didn't go unnoticed.
He arrived at Mary Washington College as one of 17 veterans to attend the all-girl's school after serving overseas during World War II. Jane, a pretty philosophy major eight years younger than Edward, was particularly smitten. Wherever he went on campus, she popped up in the background.
"Every time he looked up, there was this same girl chasing him," said their son, John Hoffman. "She caught him."
They married in 1948 on her parents' farm. Three children eventually came along. She worked as an English teacher, he as an interior designer with his own business. He designed the homes they lived in, decorating them with luxurious detail.
His wife loved his artful eye. Every birthday, he bought her a new dress. It always looked great.
Mr. Hoffman was a bit of a daredevil, raised just five blocks from Albert Whitted Airport. As a teenager, he worked as a line boy learning how to build planes. He sold tickets for rides with pilot Otis Beard in exchange for rough and tumble evening flying lessons in Beard's Aeronca C-3.
Later in life, Mr. Hoffman built five all-wood seaplanes, which he kept on his property on Lake Tarpon. He taught his children to fly, and they zoomed through the air with him side-by-side.
Mrs. Hoffman was a deep thinker who liked to stay inside and read novels, a lady who loved keeping up the house in Southern tradition. But like her husband, she had her own bag of tricks.
"She was sort of a dignified Southern gal, and she would say things, little expletives, that, oh yeah, she caught everybody off guard," said John Hoffman. "She was a clown in her own right."
They looked at life the same. They were both strong Democrats and Christians. Mr. Hoffman sometimes brought home hitchhikers and gave them a hot meal. His wife didn't mind.
When the children had conflicts, their father told them to take the high road and quoted Mark Twain. Their mother did the same, then quoted the Yearling or the Little Prince.
In retirement, they lived in a Tarpon Springs house he designed and vacationed in a Tennessee cabin he built. He constructed a replica of the Benoist Flying boat for a 70th anniversary reenactment. He founded the Florida Aviation Historical Society and was inducted into the Florida Aviation Hall of Fame. She was involved in her church and retired educators group.
Mr. Hoffman battled leukemia. He was feeling better when his wife went into the hospital with pneumonia five weeks ago. He went to church every Sunday and prayed for her. He visited her each day.
Last week, he had a blood transfusion, his family said. Complications arose, and he went downhill fast.
Mr. Hoffman died Wednesday. He was 90.
Their children gathered around their mother and talked to her.
"We told her it was okay to fly away with him," said Edward Jr. "Maybe she heard us."
The next day, she died. She was 82.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8857.