Delbert Dean Hofferth



Delbert Dean Hofferth, of Anacortes, expired unexpectedly on December 28, 2009. He was 81 years old. Dean was born on July 2, 1928 in Hebron, Indiana, the second son of Delbert and Vera Hofferth. He attended public school and graduated valedictorian from Morgan Township High School in 1946. During his high school years Dean was able to realize his childhood dream of flying and earned his Civilian Pilots License at the age of sixteen flying an open cockpit Curtiss PT19. Following high school he joined the Holloway Program in the U.S. Navy and became a Flying Midshipman. He graduated Navy Flight School and earned his wings as a Naval Aviator on May 3, 1950. Flying from the deck of the Valley Forge he completed fifty missions in the Korean Theater and returned home in July of 1952. He resigned his commission as Lieutenant after six years to complete his education at Purdue University. At Purdue he was asked to join the National Honorary Aeronautical Engineering Society, Sigma Gamma Tau. Dean graduated Purdue in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering. While on leave in May of 1950 Dean was introduced to the woman of his dreams who after a whirlwind courtship would become his loving wife of fifty-nine years, a young nurse by the name of Irene Roth. They were introduced by his sister Penny who knew Irene from their time together as student nurses. On November 28, 1950 Dean and Irene were married in a double ceremony with his sister Penny and her fiancé’ Tom Farrington. Following college Dean joined the Douglas Aircraft team, in 1956 to develop the A4 Skyhawk, the aircraft that would replace the Douglas AD that he had flown in Korea. With the acceptance of the A4 into Navy service Dean went on to become a rocket scientist. Sent to England by Douglas he was involved with the Nike Zeus ballistic missile defense installation at Lakenheath. With the completion of the Lakenheath installation Dean and Irene moved to Sacramento California to begin work on the Apollo Program. As the Director of Propulsion, Dean and his team were instrumental in development and production of the third stage of the Apollo launch vehicle. Stage three provided the final thrust into Earth orbit and then pushed the spacecraft towards the Moon. During the program he worked with Werner Von Braun and other early space program giants as well as briefing all of Apollo astronauts on the S-IVB stage. Dean was present, in the main blockhouse, for each launch of the Apollo program. Deans’ legacy with Apollo lives on in the Ares project currently in development, to replace the Space Shuttle and to return man to the Moon and on to Mars. Following the termination of the Apollo program Dean went on to become the Director of the Ballistic Missile Defense program for McDonnell Douglas. The pioneering work that Dean and his team did on BMD continues now that Boeing and Mcdonnell Douglas have merged. Dean retired from Mcdonnell Douglas in 1989 and after some searching he and Irene moved to Anacortes. Having visited a Navy squadron mate that lives in the area they decided Anacortes and the San Juan Islands would be a place that they could call home. Upon arrival Dean became deeply involved with Anacortes Lutheran Church to which he contributed both time and talents. He and Irene joined the Fidalgo Yacht Club and sailed with them for eighteen years. Dean was a quietly and deeply Christian man. The moral upbringing by his parents gave him a strong belief of right and wrong and an unfailing faith in Jesus Christ. His motto “The measure of a man is what he will do when he knows that no one will find out” served him well as a moral compass in his personal, professional, and religious life. Dean’s compassion and love of the Lord serves an important lesson in his legacy to each of us. Family was Dean’s anchor in this world. He was always there and never failing in his willingness to lend support and encouragement. He and Irene stood side by side for 59 years and whatever the storm they weathered it together. He took an active interest in the lives of his three sons and instilled in them his love of the outdoors, flying, and sailing. His only regret was that there was never enough time to spend at home together. Dean was preceded in death by his parents, brother Robert and sister Donna. He is survived by his wife, Irene; brother Ken and sister Penny; sons and daughters-in-law, Terry and Cynthia Hofferth of Chino, CA, Brian and Beth Hofferth of Anacortes, Tim and Anne Hofferth of Anacortes; and grandchildren, Elliot, Andrew, Patrick and James. A memorial service was held Saturday, January 2, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. at the Anacortes Lutheran Church with Pastor Debra Benson officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Anacortes Lutheran Church. Arrangements are in the care of Evans Funeral Chapel & Crematory, Inc., Anacortes, WA and the San Juan Islands.

On Golden Wings