VERONA - Bernd-Wolfgang Hoffmann, 68, died of a heart attack in his Verona, Wis. home late Tuesday night, July 12, 2016. He was born Oct. 8, 1947, in Schwarzenbach An Der Saale, Bavaria, Germany to Liselotte Anna Rita (Pfitzer) and Hans Martin Hoffmann.
His early education was in Nordlingen. By age 17, he had already established his photographic reputation, and he completed his studies at the Bavarian State Academy for Photography in 1970. The following year, he was recruited to fill a position at UW-Madison as a filmmaker and photographer in the Department of Agricultural Journalism, now the Department of Life Sciences Communication. He boarded a ship and moved to the United States.
In his outreach role, he produced educational films and photographed a wide range of agricultural and natural resources subjects. While working, Wolfgang earned both a B.S. degree in 1975 and an M.S. degree in 1979 at UW-Madison, in Agricultural Journalism. He became a U.S. citizen on Nov. 3, 1978.
In his 23 years as a UW filmmaker, Wolfgang created movies for many audiences, including K-12 classrooms and industry groups as well as the general public. One, "Food and Jobs: Wisconsin Agriculture," was shown on Wisconsin Public Television and won local, national and international awards. Another award-winning film was "How to Have an Accident," which focused on farm safety.
In 1984, and for the next 21 years, Wolfgang taught department students the art and skills of photo-composition and darkroom processing. Later, with new technology, he concentrated on photography to illustrate stories about the research, outreach, and educational effort of the U.W. College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. He continued collaborating with the university and private sectors up to the last day of his life. His photos of landscapes, trees, architecture, animals, and portraits of people captured their personalities as well as their images.
Wolfgang received more than 70 professional awards in his 35-year U.W. career, including the College's first "Academic Award for Excellence in Service," the award he valued most. He was also a long-time member of the international Agricultural Communicators in Education group, serving as Wisconsin's representative at one time and judging numerous photography and film contests.
"Wolfgang went at his work like a reporter. He had a great eye and he was a technical perfectionist, but he also spent a lot of time talking to the researchers to learn the science behind what they were doing and come up with a way to illustrate that. He created wonderful images that told complicated stories," says emeritus university relations specialist Bob Mitchell, who worked with Wolfgang on many projects.
"Wolfgang was an outstanding photographer and filmmaker. His work was exacting and he produced wonderful films and photos that told the story he wanted to convey in beautiful ways," says U.W. Life Sciences emeritus professor Larry Meiller, who was Hoffmann's colleague from the beginning. "At the same time, he was a warm human being who made friends easily and was liked by virtually everyone. We are fortunate to have had him as a colleague and, even more, as a great friend."
Wolfgang married Sandra Thompson Wendling in 1975. They had one son, D.A. Matthew Hoffmann. Wolfgang married Beth Boeing-Fritz in 1994. He married Katharine Driftmier Miller on Feb. 14, 2004 and realized a fresh upwelling of life in community with the abundance of their wildlife habitat/farm, "Springs of Rejoicing."
He was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Susanne Hoffmann; a stepson, Matthew Miller; and his father-in-law, Donald Driftmier.
Wolfgang is survived by his wife, Katharine Driftmier Miller Hoffmann; son, Matthew (Bethany) Hoffmann; grandsons, Lex and Andrew; stepson, Daniel Miller; sister, Ulricka (Hajo) Schwerin; brother, Martin Hoffmann; niece, Jana; nephew, Martin Hoffmann Jr.; and Ruger, his devoted Rottweiler.
Wolfgang's photos captured life from a unique perspective, a different angle, not just educational, but exquisite and vibrant with life, composition, focus, and color. He cared about his audience and wanted them to know about the message through his exceptional techniques in visual arts. Everything was a world of mystery to be discovered, from the magic nutrients in the soil, to the uniqueness of a heart-shaped strawberry, to the way a corn seed develops, to the close-up dangerous beauty of an emerald ash borer. It was his personal mission to use his photography and film to explain and teach the wonders of life.
Wolfgang had an acute awareness of spirit, energy, and light. He had a limitless relationship with God and practiced mindfulness and unconditional love in everything he did. He listened intentionally and unhesitatingly to the needs of others and said, "Yes," to all the opportunities and challenges that life offered.
Wolfgang loved his adopted country passionately. He was a lifelong learner, constantly putting lessons into practice. He was an exemplary father, steward, and friend.
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home." - William Wordsworth
Wolfgang completed his earthly life and awakened fully to his radiant eternal self when he quietly shed his beautiful body and departed from the cares of this life.
An intimate memorial service will be held Sat. Sept. 10, 2016, at 1 p.m. at GRACE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, 245 W. Pearl St., Belleville. A special public Celebration of the Life of Wolfgang Hoffmann will be held on Sunday. Sept. 25, 2016, beginning at 1 p.m. at the U.W. PYLE CENTER, 702 Langdon St., Madison.
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