Memorial: Vail pioneer Cecile Hofler
Vail, CO Colorado
One of Vail’s pioneers, Cecile Hofler, who arrived in Vail with her late husband, Gunther Hofler, in 1964, died Oct.10 from complications of Alzheimer’s dementia at Juniper Village in Aurora, where she resided for the past three years. She is survived by a daughter and two older sisters.
“She was always so energetic and caring. It is very sad that she passed away that way,” said Sheika Gramshammer, who hired Cecile in 1966-67 to run the front desk at Gramshammer’s. “I was very happy that she worked for me. She really introduced me how to set up the front desk and guest services because of her knowledge of working in Bermuda.”
Cecile moved to London to learn English when she was 18 before working in the hotel industry in Lugano and Montreux, Switzerland. Bermuda followed. She worked at a hotel and she met Joe Staufer, one of Vail’s early arrivals.
“I was working as the beach club manager at the Elbow Beach Hotel, and Cecile used to come down to see us,” Staufer said. “She was a very, very outgoing, fun person and she was always had a very attractive appearance.”
When she met Gunther, the two fell in love, and after Staufer moved to Vail, they took Staufer’s advice and followed him to Vail after hearing his glowing reports.
Born in the rural town of Eiken, Switzerland, Cecile’s father owned a popular bakery. People from Basel, 20 miles away, would come on bicycle or foot just to buy his bread that was baked in a wood-fired stove. Located on the Rhine River, Eiken is just across the border from Germany. Cecile used to tell friends that she and her brother got in trouble with their parents and were grounded for climbing a hill to watch the bombing in the neighboring town of Rheinfelden in Germany during World War II.
According to her daughter, she worked hard, was a gourmet cook – spending all day to make a beef Wellington for a dinner party – and had a great sense of fashion.
“I could always count on her for great feedback,” said her daughter. “She loved flowers, gardening, nature, being active physically, and eating healthy. She loved adventurous travel. She often said that hiking to the base camp of Mt. Everest was the highlight of her life – despite United Airlines losing her luggage, and having to hike 10 miles a day with borrowed boots, borrowed clothing and no toiletries. She was very proud to have been one of the few people in her group to make it to the base camp.”
Daphne Slevin, also a long-time Vail resident, recalled how Cecile always was the fastest hiker in their group of women.
“She had such lovely, long legs, she would always be way ahead of the rest of us on our weekly all-day hikes,” Slevin said.
In 1971, Cecile and Gunther bought a commercial condominium space in the Mill Creek Court Building in Vail Village and opened a shop called Necessities and Such, which the two of them ran until retiring in 1996. They were hard-working, and yet they took time for lengthy trips to Russia, the Far East, and South America, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and numerous weeks at many Club Med Clubs. She and Gunther hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and came home with glowing reports.
“She was a dear friend, and we will certainly miss her,” said Hermann Staufer.
Like many other Vailites, he knew her since the 1960s.
“She was always so full of life,” Marka Moser said. “She always had really high energy, was fun to be with, and, at gatherings, she was always one of ones who was the life of the party.”
And part-time Vail resident, Gullvi Blume of Cheyenne, Wyo., said, “Cecile was a people person, a charmer, always happy and upbeat and she handled adversity well. At her 50th birthday party, she had torn ligaments in both her knees yet she was sitting there smiling.”
One of the Hoflers’ dearest friends, Julie Dews, met Cecile 40 years ago, and, because of their European connection (Julie was born in Bavaria), they became best of friends.
“We did so much together – skiing, picnics, and dinners out,” Dews said. “We had a standing thing where every week we went to the Eagle-Vail Cafe to dinner and so many times to the Alpenrose. We took a cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore; we went windsurfing in Puerto Rico. She and Gunther went windsurfing at Green Mountain Reservoir almost every weekend. And they came to my house 20 years, at least, for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. My children adored them. They were part of the family.”
Despite her Alzheimer’s disease, Cecile skied almost every day until about four years ago, bringing Swiss chocolates to the lift attendants. She was always very friendly and outgoing with everyone. Even as her disease progressed and she moved to assisted living, she continued to live life to the best of her abilities. She was known to give hugs and smiles to everyone, loved music, dancing, and walking outdoors.
“She seemed to sense when another resident or staff member was not feeling well and she would try to comfort them,” said her daughter. “She was well liked. Many staff members came to say goodbye to her, some with tears in their eyes, some telling me she was one of their favorite residents. Visitors who had family members in the facility, all seemed to know her and like her, and comment on how she would come up to them and give great hugs – how she was one of the bright spots at the facility. Her charm warmed even the hospice staff, which had only been taking care of her in the last few weeks of her life.”
A memorial service is planned for Jan. 8 at 2:30 pm at the Vail Interfaith Chapel. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, 455 Sherman Street, No. 500, Denver, CO 80203 (800-272-3900).
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