Vigorous promoter of the Faith served with "exemplary zeal"
OXFORD, England — A distinguished member of the international Baha'i community, Mr. David Hofman, 94, died on 9 May 2003 in England.
Mr. Hofman was one of the nine elected members of the Universal House of Justice when that institution came into being in 1963. He presented the first statement from the supreme Baha'i administrative body in April that year to the World Congress in London. Twenty-nine years later, in 1992, he delivered the opening address to the second Baha'i World Congress in New York, an event attended by some 30,000 people. He served as a member of the Universal House of Justice for 25 years, until he left in 1988 at the age of 80.
On 11 May 2003, the Universal House of Justice sent a message to National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world in which they spoke of how Mr. Hofman, "a vigorous promoter of the Faith for nigh on seven decades", had served the Faith with "exemplary zeal in Canada, the United States, the British Isles, the World Centre and, finally, to the last reserves of his strength, as a traveling teacher throughout the world."
"He will be remembered," the Universal House of Justice said, "for an adamantine loyalty to the Cause, an unfailing response to the call and guidance of the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice, a central role in the advancement of the British Baha'i community and the launching of the brilliant Africa Campaign, and his outstanding contributions to Baha'i literature both as an author and a publisher."
"His life was crowned by twenty-five years of distinguished service as a member of the Universal House of Justice from 1963 to 1988."
When asked in 1997 about his experience as a member of the supreme Baha'i body for so many years he said: "When you have experienced true consultation, there is nothing else like it." Mr. Hofman added that in his time on the Universal House of Justice there were only two or three times when a vote had to be taken.
Mr. Hofman founded the publishing house George Ronald, which specializes in Baha'i books. It has published editions containing the Sacred Baha'i Writings, and works by Hands of the Cause Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, Hasan Balyuzi, Ugo Giachery, William Sears and George Townshend, and Universal House of Justice member, the late Adib Taherzadeh.
Mr. Hofman was a prolific and highly regarded author on Baha'i topics. His books include a portrait of the life of Baha'u'llah, and a major biography of the Hand of the Cause George Townshend. He was the publisher, literary executor and close friend of Mr. Townshend.
His introduction to the Baha'i Faith, "The Renewal of Civilization" was first published in 1946 but was revised and reprinted some nine times from then until 1992. The book was translated into six languages. Mr. Hofman also wrote a children's book, "God and His Messengers"; a 1950 commentary on the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha (with a 1982 epilogue), and a compilation about 'Abdu'l-Baha from the notes of George Townshend.
His statement on the aims and purposes of the Baha'i Faith made a regular appearance in volumes of "The Baha'i World", an official international record of Baha'i activities throughout the world.
A British citizen, Mr. Hofman was in Montreal Canada when in 1933 he became interested in the Baha'i Faith through meeting prominent Baha'is Sutherland Maxwell and his wife, May. In an interview in 1997, he said that he had been an atheist with his own theory on how to create a new world order. The bright new future he saw for the planet had no place for God in it.
Mrs. Maxwell said to him: "You think you believe that--but you don't." More than six decades later, he said he recalled with absolute clarity the feeling her statement created with him. "I felt as if I were split down the middle," he recalled. Half of him believed what he was saying but the other half knew she was right. He had to make a choice. He became a Baha'i.
After touring North America, he settled in Los Angeles, where he intended to become a film actor and served on the Local Spiritual Assembly. There he met Miss Marion Holley, who was later to become his wife.
In January 1936 he arrived back in England, was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly and, at the following National Convention, became its Secretary, while continuing to pursue his career as an actor. With brief intervals he served on the National Assembly for 27 years. In 1937 he was for a time the only male announcer on BBC television. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II he was drafted into the National Fire Service and, when he was invalided out in 1943 he returned to the theatre.
After a nine-year engagement Marion joined David in 1945 and they were married in England. They moved then to Northampton to establish a Baha'i community and in 1948 went to Birmingham for the same reason. They carried out similar work when they went to live in Oxford and then, as part of the Faith's 10-year expansion plan between 1953 and 1963, they established Baha'i communities in Cardiff and Watford.
Upon their departure from the Holy Land in 1988, the Hofmans settled in Steeple Aston in England where they served on the Local Spiritual Assembly together. They later moved to Oxford. In his later years, Mr. Hofman traveled widely, meeting with Baha'i communities, where he was admired as a brilliant public speaker, for his deep knowledge of the Baha'i Faith, his energy and for his warm, inclusive personality. He also met public officials and leaders of thought in many countries, including, for example, Australia and Canada.
The secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United Kingdom, Barney Leith, said Mr. Hofman had a "long life of illustrious Baha'i service."
Mr. Leith said Mr. Hofman had been admitted to hospital last week. Some Baha'is visited him in hospital and were with him until just before he passed away at 1a.m. Funeral arrangements would be made in due course, Mr. Leith said.
The Hofmans had two children, May and Mark. Mrs. Hofman, a highly regarded editor, died in 1995. Mr. Hofman later remarried.
Mr. Hofman is survived by his wife Kathleen, his children and grandchildren.
The Universal House of Justice has advised the Baha'i world to hold memorial gatherings in his honor in all Houses of Worship and throughout the Baha'i community.