This is an unsung hero:
Gloria Hoffner’s by-line was familiar through the years to readers of Town Talk, the Delaware County Daily Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer. But her love of music has taken her down a far different path from that of the printed word.Hoffner, 53, of Upper Providence, left her career in journalism about two years ago when newspapers began to downsize. Instead of pad and pen, she picked up a guitar and now performs at nursing homes and senior citizen centers throughout the region and as far northeast as the Pocono Mountains.
“I do sing-a-longs,” Hoffner said. “My whole focus is to get the audience to sing along. I bring all the old favorites and ‘jingle sticks’ and song books for everyone. If I make people happy, that’s my goal.”
As a student at Temple University, Hoffner majored in journalism with a minor in music. Her first writing job out of college was as a part-time reporter for Town Talk in 1976. From there she went to the Daily Times as a community correspondent and then to the Inquirer, writing for the old Neighbors section.
Hoffner covered suburban education, the police blotter, wrote feature stories, business page and state page stories. “And one sports story on the Flyers,” she recalled.
“It was a great run,” Hoffner said of her 21 years with the Philadelphia newspaper. “I wanted to be a reporter since I was in seventh grade, that’s because I could not be an astronaut.”
Hoffner is serious about her space ambitions. When she was growing up in Ridley Park she wrote to NASA and said she wanted to be an astronaut.
“I got a form letter from NASA telling me what courses to take in college and at the bottom of the letter was a handwritten note that said ‘we don’t accept women’,” Hoffner said.
Along her career path Hoffner met and married Jim McCall and gave birth to two sons, Richard, 27, and Stephen, 23. The couple has been together 31 years. McCall is with the Sherwin Williams Paint Company. Richard graduated from the Delaware County Municipal Police Academy and is in private security work and Stephen will graduate in May from Delaware County Community College with a degree in business.
“I loved being a reporter and I met fabulous, interesting people,”
Hoffner said. “The part of being a reporter I really liked was meeting people who made a difference. I always thought a reporter was a small cog in a big machine that was able to connect people who needed other people. I like to be able to know I made a difference.”
Hoffner said meeting Eunice Shriver, sister of President John F. Kennedy and founder of the Special Olympics, and Mother Theresa, the nun from India who enriched the lives of so many people, as the highlights of her newspaper career as was winning a Sigma Delta Chi journalism award.
Hoffner never lost sight of her love of music through the years. She joined the Chichester Alumni Community Band, playing baritone horn, which she hadn’t played for 30 years.
“I went out and bought a horn and I said to Jim ‘if this doesn’t work out, Cardinal O’Hara (high school band) will get a horn donation,” she joked.
The baritone horn and Hoffner went well together and she is still with the alumni band.
On the lookout for a new and different career while she was still writing, Hoffner got a part-time job in the administration office of Broomall Presbyterian Village in Marple Township. She liked the work but continued writing. “I thought this was a good way to test the waters,” she explained.
On her resume for the nursing home job. Hoffner noted that she played the guitar. She taught that instrument while she was a student at Temple and played at weddings to help pay her college tuition.
“I was asked to play my guitar for the nursing home residents at dinner time and it was so much fun. The residents loved it,” Hoffner remembered.
That incident led Hoffner to the realization that it wasn’t too late for a new career path. In late 2006 she got her activities director certification in Pennsylvania and she now calls Jan. 2, 2007 – the day she was laid off – “independence day.”
Five months later Guitar With Gloria was born. Since then Hoffner has played at more than 150 different locations in the five county Philadelphia area and in Lehigh County. Some gigs are one-shot deals but many are regular commitments. She works five days a week and sometimes six. But she said it is not a full-day’s work.
“I am an extremely blessed person,” she said. “I’ve had two wonderful careers.” http://guitarwithgloria.com/
this article appeared in the Town Talk and County Press newspapers of allaroundphilly.com.