Russell engine

Ilva Hoffer at Wauseon with a Russell engine. Photo courtesy Bob Lefever.

Bob Lefever

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Ilva Hoffer was with the National Threshers Association in Ohio from the beginning, when LeRoy Blaker started it on his farm at Alvordton and a few friends got together with their engines.

That went on for several years. It started to grow, and was incorporated as the National Threshers in 1950.

'It was the first reunion of its kind,' Mrs. Hoffer recalls. 'Others came in and saw how it was going and started their own, in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and so on.'

Blaker had a couple of Port Huron steam traction engines, and a Case. The reunion was held at the farm until 1953 and then moved to the fairgrounds at Montpelier. The farm could no longer accommodate the people who wanted to see the threshing rig and sawmill and other equipment in action.

Another move was made in 1955, to the Fulton County fairgrounds at Wauseon. The reunion has been held there ever since, drawing large crowds on each of its four days.

LeRoy and Lucille Blaker were in charge until 1969. Then Ernest and Ilva Hoffer were voted in, he as president and she as secretary-treasurer. They served eight years.

The Hoffers developed a large circle of friends and acquaintances, not only at Wauseon, but in many other places through their business of selling postcards showing engines, rigs and locomotives. That started in 1954 and Mrs. Hoffer is now in her 28th year at it. Ernest passed away in 1976. They knew Rev. Elmer Ritz-man, founder of GEM and Iron-Men Album.

'We have some real close friends at our show,' she mentions. 'One of the originals, now close to his 90s, is Ralph Vincent, and his wife Marie. They live at Bryan, O. Percy Sherman, of Palmyra, O., is an old timer, and so is Julius Huffman, of Hol-gate, O.'

'Marvin Brodbeck became president in 1977. His wife Shirley is secretary-treasurer. Their home is at Ottawa Lake, Mich.

The board named Ilva an honorary director when she retired from her record-breaking chores.

She has also been very active in the Women's Auxiliary, serving three terms as president. Some of the ideas used by the group should be of interest to other women across the country who wish to be with their men and raise funds on their own.

'We had a very good display this June,' she reports, 'We hold demonstrations for the women, in arts and crafts. In past years we had glassblowers, and microwave cooking anything interesting to a woman. We hold tea after the demonstrations.

'We have a Hobby Lobby building, to which women bring their crafts to display and sell. We also have all kinds of crafts outdoors. The proceeds go for expenses. The engines have to be hauled in, and there are light and water bills.

'But mostly, we do it for the fun of it, showing the younger generation the way things were done years ago.'

She is pleased that young persons are joining the association. Several of the young men own their own engines 'and are really proud to show people what their equipment will do.'

A marker with a wheel on it, and a brass plaque, was placed some years ago on the Blaker farm in the front yard of the Blaker farmhouse, honoring it as the first steam and gas reunion in the nation.

Mrs. Hoffer has five children. Her oldest son, Calvin, is following in his Dad's footsteps. The family has a Buffalo-Pitts which they are restoring.

The show this June brought large crowds. Older persons said they had been 'saving for this show,' and everybody had a good time, Mrs. Hoffer noted.

Mrs. Hoffer, a 'pioneer woman' in the world of gas and steam reunions, still finds great pleasure in all that goes on in holding them. She also travels, to see other shows and meet up with people she knows. She's a fountain of information and experience, and willing to share it so that others can continue the type of enterprise she helped originate.