The Essential Ernest
by Dana Roszkiewicz
Thank you all so much for coming out to this Celebration of the life of Ernest Hofer.
I am Dana Roszkiewicz, Ernest's friend of over thirty years. I am here with my wife, Peggy Melozzi.
Ernest was my Best Man when we were married almost exactly 25 years ago at Trinity College,
Oxford. He has been our Best Man since then and he will hold that title forever in our hearts.
Like you, we were absolutely shocked by the news of Ernest's recent stroke. Yes, Ernest had
numerous health problems, including heart disease, persistent bladder problems, and asthma,
among other issues. Most of you knew this, as he shared information about his medical issues
But most of you also know that recent months found him reinvigorated, happy, and definitely
healthier in appearance—many people noticed it and commented on it. He had spent, I think, almost
ten weeks in Tobago, actively enjoying the sun, the sea, and the international society that made its
way there. He came home to Riveracres tanned and toned and, in June, he again made his always
triumphant return to Brighton. Many have said that the Brighton social scene itself came to life when
Hofer rode into town. In a short space of time, he always knew about the deep inner workings of
Brighton society and yearlong residents often admitted that they looked to him for "the inside story."
After a short time in Brighton, he embarked on a wonderful trip to Norway--filled with new spectacular
things to see and incredibly hospitable people--he was overjoyed about his new friends, couldn’t wait
to tell us about them, and he had new “must see” travel tips for all of us
With all of this as a backdrop, news of his stroke paralyzed us—It was so quick, so deep, so serious,
so inconceivable. Might he recover? How much? No one could bear to imagine an impaired Ernest.
Then, while we were in the air headed to England, Ernest departed peacefully in the early morning
hours of Tuesday, July 15. While in hospital, he was never without his dear Brighton friends--Tony,
Guy, Pip, Steve, Trish, Simon, Steven, and others. And he was never without his friends in the US.
So many of you called and wrote—terrified, lost, hungry for information that ultimately it hurt so much
to hear. I know that on some level, he was aware that he was loved, admired, and prayed for by so
many and I believe that would have pleased him greatly.
In the past few weeks, Peggy and I have had the opportunity to speak with many of you about Ernest
and the characteristics, behaviors, quirks, endearments, and traits that made our Ernest, our Ernest.
I'd like to try to catalogue some of the essential traits that made Ernest such a wonderfully singular
Essential trait #1--the Social Engineer
No one I have ever known has had such a refined ability to bring people together than Ernest. This
gathering today is evidence of it, but it goes so, so far beyond this gathering.
He loved making connections with new friends, then connecting new friends with old friends, then
finding more new friends to connect with his old/old friends and new/old friends. Because in Ernest’s
world, new friends became old friends with extraordinary speed. Often, Friends of Ernest (some of
us actually called ourselves FOEs) from halfway around the world would find themselves forming
deep and lasting friendships with other Friends of Ernest, sometimes deeper friendships than either
of them had with Ernest himself, which, I might add, could annoy him more than a little bit.
But the simple truth was that Ernest loved people. His immense charm and bottomless intelligence
guaranteed that he would have a large circle of friends and admirers and I think one of his most
wonderful traits was his ability and deep desire to share his friends generously. If you look around
the church today, you will see many of the beautiful faces that, to me, define Ernest’s generosity.
Essential trait #2--the Spin Doctor
As you know, Ernest worked in advertising early in his career and no doubt learned a thing or two
there about how to amplify the virtues of a particular product. But, as we all know, he applied those
skills to people, too. In his world, princes became kings, solid business workers became Chief
Executive Officers, and mid-level bureaucrats like me became Top Government Officials.
This was never done with deceptive intent; rather, it was his way of making his friends, and those to
whom he introduced his friends, feel like they are all part of something very, very important and very
exciting. And it worked. We all felt privileged to be brought together, even if we weren't always
everything he stacked us up to be.
Again, if you look around the church today, hear the beautiful music and the tributes, you will know
more than a little about the privilege he has left with us—the privilege of good company.
Essential trait #3--the Critic
Our Ernest had powerful critical powers, no doubt developed throughout his very impressive
Only days before he was stricken, he wrote a critique of the cruise ship that had just taken him
through Norway, which we found in his jacket pocket. He had intended to forward this critique to the
cruise line, but never had the opportunity to mail it. Now, as I have already said, he loved Norway,
but his critical pencil was always sharpened and at the ready. Item #9 on his lengthy list of entries
went like this:
“The passengers (unlucky me) were the most cheerless, boring, silent, unfriendly, charmless, and
unintelligent I have ever met in at least 25 cruises.”
That probably says it all.
Essential trait #4--the Tour Guide
Traveling with Ernest was always a unique experience. He found joy in showing others all of the
staggering things he had seen and people he had met in his life, regardless of how little time there
was to do so.
If you visited with him in Brighton or at Riveracres, you would have been absolutely overwhelmed by
the itinerary that he had structured for you. Before your feet could barely touch the ground, you'd be
taken to meet two or three new friends, you'd have had a quick bite of lunch at the latest sweet
restaurant, seen the local museum, stately home, and gorgeous church, had a drink at a very special
bar, met the bartender, also an old FOE, and been whisked back to dinner for 10 people, which he
prepared, with your help, in your honor. Over drinks after dinner, he'd reveal the equally ambitious
plans he had for you for the next day.
It was absolutely exhausting, but it made for the richest experiences that you could possibly imagine.
When Ernest suggested that you go somewhere, it was always advice very worth taking. If you didn't
take it, you'd be making a serious mistake.
Essential trait #5--the Mentor
Literally hundreds and hundreds of people, many here today, benefited from his wise advice and
support. Whether it was regarding career choices, financial matters, menu decisions, academic
issues, relationships--the list goes on and on--Ernest was there to provide sage guidance and
With regularity, he'd receive letters from former students, colleagues, and friends who had followed
the path that he'd paved for them, thanking him for his kind support and advice.
And since he left us, we have heard from scores of individuals who stopped to reflect for us on how
Ernest “discovered” them, advocated for them, believed in them, and introduced them to the good
life that they enjoy today.
It's another important way in which his great spirit will live on--in the enriched lives of the many, many
people he shared it with.
Essential trait #6--The Discoverer
No one we've ever met had such intellectual curiosity, such a desire always to explore new things, as
Ernest. Just before his 80th birthday, after a fantastic trip to an exotic place, he wrote to us, in bold
letters, "Life Still Amazes Me." We thought that it captured the sense of Ernest so perfectly that we
took the quotation and blew it up into a banner that we used for the 80th Birthday celebration we had
for him in Massachusetts.
Up to just short days before his stroke, he was exploring new places, thrilling to the wonders of the
great world, and eager to share the experiences with his loved ones, giving us all the sense, not just
that he had seen new places, but that he had discovered them.
We all would do well to resolve to find the sense of curiosity and wonder that Ernest showed every
day of his life. For him, each day was a new opportunity to be amazed by life, to live more. He
managed, in my opinion, to live up to the words of the humanist who said “The idea is to die young
as late as possible.”
I'm sure that you've seen many, if not all, of these facets of our dear Ernest in your lives.
In addition to these roles that Ernest embodied, he also occupied a bigger role for Peggy and me.
He referred to me privately and publicly as his son or his Godson--we were called "his kids," and I
know that he took those terms very seriously. To Peggy and me, he offered, for so many years, a
father's love, with all the nurturing, support, wisdom and familial baggage that implies.
We know that the space he leaves behind will never be filled, even by the uncountable precious
memories he leaves with us all.
But we still see him here, amongst you all and in these hills and along that beautiful river, and, as life
goes on, we know we'll continue to see our dear Ernest everywhere. Today, particularly, we feel his
arms around us.
Thank you all so much for joining us today in celebrating the great life of our Best Man.
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