On a snowy Wednesday night in a classroom at the First Baptist Church in Portland, 10 members of Al-Anon sat in a circle and cried and laughed sharing stories of a man who simply made their lives better for knowing him.
Kurt Hoffman, a faithful and active member of Al-Anon, took his own life Monday. His body was discovered in a marshy area off New Salt Road near Old Orchard Beach. He was 46.
Mr. Hoffman, who was known for helping people struggling with a loved one’s alcoholism or addiction, faced many challenges in his own life. He had bipolar disorder. Friends say he was open about his illness at Al-Anon meetings, sharing his fears, anger, strength and determination to rise above it. He was relentless in his pursuit of healing and inner peace.
“He was one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve met in my life,” his friend Randy Sargent said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. “He was always looking to find his path. He tried to live life the best he could with what he had to work with. He was a people person from the get-go. He wasn’t afraid to examine his feelings around his situation in life and truly better himself.”
Mr. Hoffman was a fixture in Portland’s recovery community. He attended Al-Anon meetings, worked with a sponsor, and helped other people in the program. He was known to help set up meetings and always volunteered to clean up.
“When he chaired a meeting, it was rarely a dull topic,” said another friend, Nancy Dean of Portland. “He would share of himself so willingly. I’ll never forget one meeting on a Saturday morning about sex. It was an amazing meeting. It got people feeling their own struggles. He was a courageous chairperson.”
Mr. Hoffman had a huge impact on many in the recovery community. Mike Mayo of Falmouth said Thursday that he is devastated by Mr. Hoffman’s passing. Mayo briefly sponsored him in Al-Anon.
“The stuff we talked about was the stuff you would hear between close brothers,” Mayo said. “We were very honest with each other. We liked to share jokes and laugh and match wit. …Anytime I walked away from him or heard him share, I walked away wanting more and striving for more. I don’t know who was sponsoring who. Beyond the (12) steps, it was very mutual. There was a mutual wisdom and curiosity between us.”
Mr. Hoffman faced life’s challenges head on. He grew up in South Portland, the youngest of three children. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his senior year at South Portland High School. He graduated and went on to work at Maine Medical Center in its central service department for more than 20 years. In recent years, he worked as a pizza delivery driver and at Hannaford. He lived at Longfellow Commons in Portland for the past 25 years or so.
“I can’t tell you how proud I was of my brother,” said Holly Fent of Portland. “He fought hard. He wanted so to be healthy. He would even go to the high school and talk about bipolar disorder to educate people. It speaks volumes of what kind of person he was. He was such a kind, gentle and thoughtful person. He was a gentle soul.”
Mr. Hoffman had a passion for music and riding his scooter. Another friend, Jerr Roberts, said he was also passionate about his recovery and taking care of himself through prayer, meditation, exercise and eating healthy. Roberts recalled the days that Mr. Hoffman would visit and help with chores around his property.
“We would work and have these long conversations about life and recovery,” Roberts said. “I’ll miss spending time with him and encouraging him and being encouraged by him. Sometimes he would say things that would blow me away.”
Mr. Hoffman is survived by his sister and her husband, Chuck Fent. He also leaves a brother, Carl Hoffman, of North Conway, N.H., and many nieces and nephews.
Visiting hours will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, followed by a service at Hobbs Funeral Home, 230 Cottage Road in South Portland. A potluck lunch for friends and family will follow at the VFW Post 832, 50 Peary Terrace, in South Portland.
Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: