Jean Kemper Hoffmann

Poet and Activist Was 95
Jean Kemper Hoffmann

Jean Kemper Hoffmann, one of the remaining figures of the mid-20th-century artists colony in Springs, died on June 4 in New York City.
    Ms. Hoffmann, a writer, poet, and political activist, began coming to Springs in 1949 with her second husband, Arnold Hoffmann Jr., an art director for The New York Times Magazine and an artist specializing in prints. They first visited a small summer cottage on Three Mile Harbor and fell in love with the place, she told The Star last year.
    The couple were part of the artistic community and a group of New York Times-related people who frequented Craig Claiborne’s dinner parties. Ms. Hoffmann spoke fondly of the annual Thanksgiving dinners thrown by Dallas and Jimmy Ernst before Mr. Ernst died in 1984. As a printmaker, Mr. Hoffmann worked with many of the artists who lived in this area, including James Brooks and Esteban Vicente, and he produced the annual poster for the Springs Improvement Society’s invitational show at Ashawagh Hall.
    Mr. Hoffmann designed the house the couple lived in on Fireplace Road for decades and where they moved full time after he retired. Ms. Hoffmann stayed in it for two years after his death in 1991, but found it was too much for her and moved to Northwest Woods, where she lived until she moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan last year to be closer to her family.
    Ms. Hoffmann was the author of two books of poetry, “Calling Their Names” and “Storm Warning.” She also wrote opinion pieces and short stories for publications including The Times, Women’s World, and The Star. Last year, she received the Springs Improvement Society’s annual award for excellence.
    She wrote many letters and longer pieces for The Star over the years. In a 1994 “Guestwords,” she said about a recent volume of short stories that she was “bored with reading about characters who hang out, drop out, or burn out, people who cherish their neuroses as if they were talents.” More than 20 years ago, reflecting on her own demise, she said, “the more I think about it, the more irked I am that I will not be able to witness it. . . . Is it unreasonable to want to bask in the accolades one never hears during her lifetime that are sure to be recited at her funeral, to have a last look at friends, to note who shed tears, who was absent?”
    Ms. Hoffmann was 95 when she died.
    She was born in New York City on April 30, 1917, to Adolph Kemper and the former Helen Rosenthal. She grew up in Larchmont, N.Y., and graduated from Bennington Junior College.
    After Richard Kemper, her only sibling, died in World War II, she and her parents commissioned a memorial park and monument near Mamaroneck High School. She was dedicated to a number of progressive causes, including reproductive justice, antiwar movements, animal rescue, and even the recent Occupy Wall Street movement.
    She was also physically and intellectually active in her later years, continuing a lifelong enthusiasm for swimming, walking, and yoga. She continued to attend classes at New York University and Juilliard and was a member of the East End Poetry Workshop.
    With her first husband, Jack Cantor, she had three sons, Richard Cantor of Scarsdale, N.Y., Paul Cantor of Norwalk, Conn., and John Cantor, who died in 1989. She leaves four grandchildren. In 2000, when she was 83, Ms. Hoffmann met Eric Kruh, a World War II refugee from Vienna and a professor of European literature at Southampton College. They lived together in East Hampton until Mr. Kruh died last year.
    A funeral service was held at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City on Sunday. Ms. Hoffmann’s ashes were spread in the water off East Hampton later that day.
    The family has suggested memorial contributions to the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the Animal Rescue Fund, the Nature Conservancy, or Planned Parenthood.