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We Have Lost a Wonderful Person and a Wealth of Historical Knowledge with the Passing of Joe Hofbauer.


On March 29, we lost not only a wonderful person, but a ton of Plain City history with the passing of Joe Hofbauer.

I knew Joe through the Plain City Historical Society where I sometimes helped him file documents and newspaper clippings and also from Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church where he and his family had been members all of his life. Over the course of many years, Joe always had wonderful stories to tell me and I wrote several articles about him.

Joe and his wife, Mary, are also animal lovers and they helped trap many, many kitties on their property to be spayed and neutered.

We send much love to Mary and to Joe’s daughters, Mary Catherine and Julia Ann, and the rest of his family. Joe was a very special person and he will be greatly missed.

To read Joe’s obituary, please go HERE.


In 2007, I visited Joe at his home and interviewed him for an article (below) that appeared in the Bulletin at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church. Joe not only knew a lot about Plain City history, he had a very unique history of his own.

Snapshot of a Family: The House of Hofbauer

Joseph G. V. (Joe) Hofbauer’s memories of his family and Saint Joseph’s emerge from his thoughts like fully developed snapshots—colorful and detailed; that his memories seem like pictures is not surprising since Joe was a photographer most of his life.

Joe’s life didn’t begin behind a camera however. Rather, he found himself, as a young boy, surrounded by sausages and steaks and racks of lamb.

Joe’s father, Joseph Vincent Hofbauer, owned a meat market in Plain City for almost forty years.

Born in Pfaffenhausen, Bavaria, Germany, the elder Joseph Hofbauer worked as an apprentice butcher in Hammelburg, Germany for over six years, beginning the difficult job when he was only 17 years old.

In 1928, at the age of 23, Joe’s father left Germany for the United States.

“He left because of the turmoil about the war,” Joe said. “Hitler was taking over. He didn’t like that.”

A family from German Village sponsored Joseph and paid his passage to America. Once in Columbus, Joseph worked for the David Davis Meat Packing Company, saving his money to pay back his sponsors and in the hope of one day having his own meat shop.

Things were tough for Joseph, but he kept working and saving and learning all that he could about the new country he was living in.

“My dad didn’t know any English when he came here. He just picked it up from listening to the people around him.”

With a bit of money saved, Joseph returned to Germany for a family visit in 1933. While at home, he befriended Anna Josepha Kress, a girl in his hometown of Pfaffenhausen. Joseph continued to write Anna after returning to Ohio.

In 1934, two major events occurred in Joseph’s life. First, he finally purchased his own shop, Cut-Rate Meat Market, in Plain City. Secondly, he gained his United States citizenship.

The years to come were also filled with life changing events. In 1935, Joseph sent for his darling Anna to come to Ohio from Germany. The couple married in June of 1935 at St. Mary’s (South) Catholic Church in Columbus. Anna then joined her husband, helping with the family business.

“At one time there were four different meat markets in Plain City. My dad was the only one who did his own butchering, so the other meat markets would come to my dad to order meat to sell in their stores.”

Joe’s Dad sold meat to each of his competitor’s.

After Joe was born in 1936, he also spent many days in the family shop.

“When I was little, if the shop got really busy, my mom would take me down to the Fitzgerald’s and they would baby-sit me.”

The Fitzgeralds, who looked after Joe, were Edith and her mother, Ella, who Joe called “Fitzy.” Edith would become Sister Edith of the Dominican Sisters, a wonderful and holy gift from Saint Joseph’s parish to the world of vocations.

Once he was older, Joe worked in the family meat shop. He continued to work in the shop after high school, before deciding he needed a change.

“I decided I didn’t really care for the meat business. I kept getting cut too many times.”

So instead, Joe began a career as a photographer with the Scotts Company, flying across the country to take pictures of beautiful lawns to promote the company’s products.

Leaving Scotts, Joe served as photographer in the Army, touring Korea and Vietnam. Once he was out of the military, he put his photography skills to use as a civilian, as well, working for the Marysville Journal-Tribune Newspaper and later for the Adjutant General’s Department.

Although photography replaced the family meat business for Joe, nothing ever replaced his Catholic heritage. Joe continued to share his family’s love of Saint Joseph’s; a love fostered from childhood.

“Every funeral, every wedding, anything that happened in the church, I was an altar boy.   There were only two altar boys then—me and Tom Lamb.”

Joe also remembers the days when Sunday school wasn’t for the weak of spirit.

“There used to be an altar railing up front. Every Sunday after Mass all the kids had catechism. The priest would come out from the sacristy with a chair. He’d sit down behind the altar railing and all us kids would bring our catechism books up with the book open to the page we’d studied that week. He’d look at our page and ask us questions. The whole congregation was watching.”

And if you didn’t know your catechism?

“He’d hand back the book and say, ‘You study a little bit more and come back next week.’”

While catechism was hard, equally difficult was digging out the church basement. There wasn’t always a basement at Saint Joe’s. It was added around 1960 to provide more space for a growing congregation.

“When we started, the basement had just enough room for a furnace and some coal. That’s all that was down there. We dug the rest out by hand with picks and shovels. We’d take wheelbarrows of dirt over to a farm conveyor belt that went from the basement out to a truck. Once the truck was full, we hauled it out to a farm.   The priest even helped. That dirt had been there over one hundred years and no one had disturbed it until we did. It was hard.”

A slightly easier task for Joe than digging out the church basement was convincing a pretty Columbus girl to go out with him.

On their first date, Joe gave his bride-to-be, Mary, a taste of his sense of humor.

“We went to this rather classy restaurant. They brought out a vegetable tray first and there were hot peppers on it. Mary asked me, ‘Are those pickles?’ I was always kind of ornery, so I said, ‘Yeah, those are pickles.’ She bit into one and her face turned red and her eyes watered. She said, ‘Those aren’t pickles!’”

Luckily Mary forgave Joe for his “tasteless” joke. In 1963, a new member was added to the Hofbauer family when Joe married Mary Kungis at St. James the Less Catholic Church in Columbus.

The Hofbauer family continued to grow when Joe and Mary had two daughters, Mary Catherine and Julia Ann.

Families grow. But over time, they also diminish.

While Joe’s parents, Joseph and Anna, are no longer living, their memory lingers providing images of a church, a town, and a time that exists now only in the photographs Joe Hofbauer so lovingly treasures.


Joe is pictured here with the late Bob Converse at the Plain City Historical Society.

In 2005, I nominated Joe for a Preservation Hero award from Heritage Ohio. Below is the essay I wrote explaining why Joe deserved this award. You can also read about all of the award winners for 2005 HERE.

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Joe Hofbauer, Plain City’s Preservation Hero

The first meeting for the Plain City Historical Society was in 1982. But even before that time, Joe Hofbauer was actively saving Plain City’s historic treasures. For Plain City’s Sesquicentennial celebration in 1968, Joe and a few other people asked Plain City residents to drop off their old photos so they could be copied. Today, many of the photos Joe is working to preserve are ones that initially came from that Sesquicentennial project, as well as thousands of other originals donated to the Historical Society.

Joe Hofbauer is the founder of the Plain City Historical Society. Joe used to be a professional photographer and had a fishing column in the Marysville Journal Tribune. Many of the photos in the Plain City Historical Society archives are from his personal collection and are photos he actually took. Joe is a walking, talking wealth of information on Plain City lore. But he worries that once he is gone all that information will be lost. So he is working to preserve and chronicle the photos and papers the Historical Society has for future generations.

One of the projects Joe is currently working on is in conjunction with the Plain City Library. The Library already has 27 volumes of copies of Plain City photos in their reference section, which Joe and members of the Historical Society documented, providing dates, stories, and names of people. Some of the photos from those albums have been scanned and included in the Ohio Memory project. The photos in these volumes are copies from the Sesquicentennial celebration. There are also four volumes of Plain City stories in the reference section of the Library. The Historical Society also has thousands of original photos, as well as negatives, that are not included in these volumes.

The Library and Joe are working to scan in all the photos from both the 27 volumes housed in the Library and the originals at the Historical Society. Once they are scanned in, there will be a database of photos that the general public will be able to access.

The Plain City Historical Society is housed in a few rooms next to the Plain City Village offices. Joe and other volunteers have been working to clean the rooms up and organize items so that the public will eventually be able to visit and do research for a few hours a week.

Joe works dauntlessly on archiving for the Historical Society. He clips important articles from the local papers and gathers information on houses that have sold in the area. He also clips obituaries each week from both the local paper and the Columbus Dispatch. He has stacks and stacks of clippings that he files weekly about local people.

Joe also conducts a meeting once a month for the Historical Society, often complete with speakers. These meetings have been continuous since the first one in 1982.

Joe takes requests several times a week from people wanting information about their relatives or other genealogical material. He has gotten requests from as far away as England and Germany. Joe also helps any groups in the community who need historical information on Plain City.

Joe also has tons of historical items stored at his home. From a portion of Reed Bridge (which is no longer in existence) to a fountain/lamp post that used to be in Plain City, Joe has hundreds of very important items that he is safekeeping until the Historical Society can have adequate space to display the articles. Until recently, Joe had also been storing a desk that belonged to Colonel William L. Curry, a famous Plain City resident of the 1800s. The desk has now been moved to the Historical Society rooms for eventual public display.

Joe, by the way, has a signed copy of Colonel Curry’s History of Jerome Township, (on display in the Historical Society) which he found while digging through a box of books at a yard sale—further proof of the lengths Joe will go to in order to find and save historical items.

Without Joe, all of these items would have been lost, most probably, to landfill.

Joe also lives in a historic home and has documented and written a complete history of the house and grounds.

Basically, the only reason Plain City has a Historical Society is because of Joe Hofbauer. He has gathered photos and stories and other documents that would have been lost forever if he had not taken an interest in the history of our village. Joe has been preserving Plain City’s past for most of his life with very little recognition for his efforts. He is a true Preservation Hero.

The photos below show Joe with the albums of photos which are part of the photo preservation project at the Plain City Public Library.

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