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Struck Strikes Out: Sigh... wishing 'Droop' well

Monday, August 11, 2008

Any Cherokee area high school sports fans, players, coaches, parents, officials, and administrators who attend prep games of any kind are sure to know of Cherokee's Kenny Bern and Denison's Bob Hoffman - those two old coots who sit together in lawn chairs behind home plate at baseball and softball games, and in the back row of the bleachers at basketball and football games, and wrestling and track and field meets.

Best friends for more than 50 years, Kenny and Bob have missed just two Cherokee Washington High games in four sports in the past two years. They are regulars at Braves football, baseball/softball, and basketball games, both home and away, and also attend many Braves wrestling and track and field meets home and away.

Introduced to Braves athletic teams by Bern several years ago, retired bachelor Bob has adopted the Braves and several "favorite" players. He's flat in love wth the Braves baseball team and is among their proudest and fiercely loyal boosters, just as he is for his beloved St. Louis Cardinals.

The sad part here is that Bob is now battling a serious illness and the purpose of this column is to encourage all Cherokee and other area schools' fans and players to send a card wishing him well.

I've known Bob personally for about four years and he is going to be damn mad at me when he hears about this. He knew he was ill the past few months, but put off seeing the doctor until his beloved Braves finished the State Baseball Tournament.

Kenny and Olga Bern of Cherokee are shown here with 2008 Collegiate Division II National Basketball Champion Northwestern College All-Americans, Deb Remmerde and Amy Larson. Photo contributed
"Ain't no way I'm gonna miss a damn Cherokee game," said Bob when encouraged by Kenny and me to see his doctor a couple months ago.

Please send your cards to Bob Hoffman, Room # 9856, Nebraska Medical Center, P.O. Box 6159, Omaha, Neb., 68106-0159. I have Bob's hospital and home phone numbers and for those who know him well enough to call him, just ask me for them.

We don't know how long Bob, lovingly known as "Droop," will be hospitalized, but your cards will be forwarded to his Denison home if he is dismissed.

Bob Hoffman of Denison has become a dedicated fan of the Cherokee Braves athletic teams due to his 50-year friendship with Kenny and Olga Bern of Cherokee. He's pictured here at a Braves baseball game this summer. Photo by Paul Struck
Bob, age 71, is a 1955 graduate of Storm Lake High School and attended Buena Vista College for three years before accepting a job as mail carrier at the local Storm Lake Post Office. He carried mail for 33 years before retiring.

Every spring, for 35 years in a row, Bob and Kenny would spend three weeks in Florida watching Major League Baseball spring training. He and Kenny know dozens of MLB players both retired and current, and number many of them as personal friends. They have Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox's cell phone number.

Together, they, along with Kenny's wife, Olga, who's battling her own serious illnesses, have attended thousands of area high school games and events through the years. Because of their legendary "prep fandom," they are considered special VIPs by the Iowa High School Athletic Association, and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, and are treated as royalty at all the respective state tournaments.

You see, Bob is a bachelor, and Kenny and Olga have no children of their own, so our high school kids are their family, and truly loved and admired far beyond anything you can imagine.

The preliminary diagnosis for Bob is not good, but I've got a feeling old Droop is coping much better than 80-year-old Kenny and his legion of fast friends near and far.

Knowing the private and modest Bob for four years, I've come to know him well, as he's a regular in my office every Braves game day. I often sit by Kenny and Bob at the Braves' baseball games just to listen and learn.

As to those of you who don't know Bob Hoffman, let's just say he's Kenny Bern's best friend.

And that's really all you need to know about the worth and quality of the man.

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