By Susan Motander
“When you hear the word ‘Gentleman’, you can put a picture of Lathrop Hoffman right next to it.” said former Monrovia Mayor Bob Bartlett when discussing the Hoffman. “Lathrop was one of the kindest, gentlest men that I think I have ever known. He was giving of himself, and his gift to the community were great not only in term of the gifts themselves, but also in terms of not wanting any recognition for himself.”
Bartlett and other members of the city council and government had worked with Hoffman and other local businessmen to turn Monrovia around when the city was in desperate need in the 1970s and 80s. It was through the efforts of people like Hoffman that the community was able to turn itself around through redevelopment. Hoffman worked with several city leaders during that time including Jim Starbird and Don Hopper when they were the city managers. Both wanted their thoughts to be included in any tribute to the man.
“Lathrop was certainly a cornerstone in Monrovia’s revitalization, and he and his family continue to be tremendous supporters of the community, Starbird wrote. “Lathrop was by far one of the most ethical, caring, and giving people I had the good pleasure to work with in my 40 years in local government.
“He once said to me ‘If I can’t do business with someone on a handshake, I won’t do business with them.’ He said that when Don Hopper and I discussed with him the prospect of relocating his auto dealerships from E Huntington drive to the freeway,” Starbird recalled. ” We discussed the idea and what the redevelopment agency could afford to pay for his E Huntington Dr property. He liked the idea and we shook hands. Although there was paperwork needed to finalize the undertaking, he never varied from him commitment.
“Lathrop was always there when the community needed assistance or in my case when it’s young city manager needed advice. He was a true community treasure and will be missed, but instilled in His sons and family his values for community involvement that leaves a lasting legacy.
Starbird’s sentiments were echoed by Hopper who wrote: “I have never met a more dedicated, loyal and inspirational man then Lathrop Hoffman… He was a strong influence on the early years of Monrovia’s redevelopment lending his support and vote of confidence when many weren’t sure we could really turn the corner…when Lathrop led the old town project area committee to the pivotal vote to close Myrtle Avenue for 6 months to complete the make-over business owners responded w/ an overwhelming vote of confidence…a giant step forward in the rebirth of our city…from there everything began to look possible.”
Hopper continued “As extraordinary as he was in business what will always be his lasting memory and indelible impression on me was his dedication to his family and people he worked with ….he was an inspiration to everyone he met…character was first with Lathrop! It was an honor and pleasure to have worked with Lathrop …it was humbling to be counted as a friend…. Don Hopper
Again and again, in remembering Hoffman, people pointed to the technology center and the public library as an example of Hoffman’s generosity. Recently retired Director of Community Services, April Soash recalled “Without Lathrop and Dorothy Ann and the entire family, we would not have had a technology center in the library, first in the old library and then again when the plans were being made for the new library.”
Soash went on to explain that the Hoffmans had made additional donations to the Monrovia Library Foundation which not only enabled the Library to improve and expand its internet technology, but that the income from than gift was continuing to provide the library with the upgrades needed to keep that technology current.
“Dorothy Ann and Lathrop have the only two Platinum Library Cards the Monrovia Public
Library has ever issued,” Soash recalled.
She also shared a few personal comments: “I Just always remember him being so kind. When you were talking to him, he gave you his entire attention.”
Monrovia’s current Mayor, Mary Ann Lutz, also remembered Hoffman fondly. “He had a warm and engaging smile,” Lutz said, ” and a twinkling eye.” She went on to recall that he had a great sense of humor. “His was big, a sort-of belly laugh. He enjoyed a good joke, even if he was the one telling it.”
Like Soash, Lutz recalled Hoffman’s ability to engage a person in conversation: “When you talked with him, you always felt you were the most important person in the world,”
“He was cheerful, and always had an upbeat view of life,” Lutz said.
Perhaps Soash spoke for everyone when she said: “All he wanted was to do good things, but he never wanted the credit for it.