Priester/Hoffman Family



By Veda Mae Hoffman



            Five generations of the Priester/Hoffman family have been residents of Lucerne Valley.  My grandfather, Louis Priester, owned the Holmes ranch before World War 1. His sons, Albert and Harry called the desert home for several years.  Albert owned the Crystal Creek ranch and Harry owned an alfalfa ranch on Lincoln Avenue.  My sister, Lenore, and her husband, Gordon Disney and their 7 children lived on that ranch until 1957 when they moved to Northwest Montana with Harry.

            My husband, Jack had been plagued with asthma since his childhood in Seattle and in an orphanage in Poulsbo, WA and later in Los Angeles.  At age 22, he weighed only 98 pounds.  As a last resort, Ethel “Ma” Ewing, brought him to Lucerne Valley in 1932.  He stayed with “Doc” Henrietta Sweet who lived on the property where Chuck Bell and family now live.  She was a retired physician, and under her expertise, Jack was soon pedaling his bike around the Valley, doing odd jobs.  Remember, these were “Depression Days”!

            As soon as Jack was able, he fixed up an abandoned cabin to live in.  It was across form the Fratt homestead east of Midway School on Rabbit Springs Rd.  Later, Ernie Moe built a nice home for his family across from the school.

            Verne and Irene Fratt were instrumental in our meeting each other.  They were working for my father, Harry Priester, on his ranch on Lincoln Ave.  I had just graduated from Hollywood High School and they introduced us in the summer of 1937.   Jack was working at the Von Breton ranch for Hazlett Anderson.  The Andersons had several children and a new baby, so when Anna Deacon, who had been working for them, had to go back to school, I got the job.  Needless to say, a romance developed between Jack and me, and we were married in Los Angeles on May 6, 1938.  In March, 1939, our son, Jack was born in the Rose Maternity Hospital in Los Angeles.  But we missed the desert, so we moved back as caretakers of my father’s ranch.  When we learned another little Hoffman was due in 1941, Jack took a second job at the Texas Quarries in the buttes east of Lucerne Valley.  It closed on February 5th, the day Sharon was born, but that paid the hospital and doctor bills. 

            We moved away from the Valley several times to where the pay was more lucrative, but Jack’s asthma would return, so we always returned to the clean, dry air of Lucerne Valley.  Jack worked at several jobs around the Valley, including laying gas lines and working with his father in law, Harry, putting power lines to Big Bear.  That job financed us buying five acres from Harry and Sedonia Oberlin in the early 40’s.  We worked very hard clearing by hand a long driveway back to our property and our home site.  Jack drilled our first well with a posthole augur.  In 1958, Junie Gobar drilled a deeper well for us.  We started out small but planned our home to grow as we could afford it.  I planted apple trees I had started in milk cartons when we lived in Monrovia and watered them, one bucket of water at a time.  We moved in during the summer of 1947, and on March 3rd, 1948, our second son, Glen was born.  As the years went by, our home did grow to four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen and dining room, a spacious living room with fireplace and a roomy basement and washroom, all built by Jack, not to mention the reservoir which doubled as a swimming pool and a water source for our large garden.  The house is now owned by the Probert family who was kind enough to let us have a peek around during our visit in May, 2002.

            In 1953, Lorraine Koehly and her husband made a home made television and when Jack saw it, he had to have a TV too.  So we had the first store bought TV in Lucerne Valley.  We went to many dances at Midway school and the old Women’s Club, where the Kingdom Hall now is.  Junie Gobar played the drums in a 3-piece band.  We also enjoyed  the dances at the Ewings’ Desert Dome.

            Jack Jr and Sharon attended the Midway school and remember favorite teachers Alice Barnett, Susanne Muller and Ethel Windchanz.  Glen attended the Lucerne Valley Elementary school

            Jack was hired at Kaiser Permanente Cement and Gypsum when it began operations, around 1957 and he continued there until his retirement in 1975. 

            Our family has grown to include son Jack and his children, Roger, Cindy, Craig, Crystal, Charles and Clint.  Jack Jr. was married to Sherry Chesshir, daughter of Ernie and Edith Chesshir, former Valley residents.  He also worked for Sherry’s brother in law, Jim Ward at the Shell station where the 76 station is now.  His daughter, Cindy attended the Lucerne Valley Elementary school through 3rd grade before moving to Montana.  His daughter Crystal and her husband, Brad Miller have our two great grandchildren, Makayla and Tyler.  Our daughter, Sharon married Ted Floroi and still lives in the Valley.  She started working  at the Pfizer/Specialty Minerals in 1963 and was there for over 30 years.  Our son, Glen and his wife, Laura, have 3 children, Glen, Alina and Andreana.

            In the meantime, my father, Harry, and sister, Lenore wanted us to move up on five wooded acres in Libby, Montana, which we did in 1977, but this time we had our house built for us.  Harry died in 1988, at the age of 96 and Lenore died in 1996.  Jack Sr. died on December 23, 2000 at the age of 90 and our son, Jack, died on December 23, 2002

            I got to make the trip back to the Valley in May with my son, Jack and grand daughter, Cindy in May, 2002.  We brought my husband’s ashes back to the desert and also got to visit many old friends:  Jake and Bonnie Stanfield, Bill and Pearl Martin and their family, Bob Delperdang, whom Jack had known for years and Darlene Schultz Field, who went to school with Cindy, among many others.


[Lucerne Valley Website] [Lucerne Valley History] [San Bernardino County Service Area 29]
[Lucerne Valley Chamber of Commerce] [Root Diggers Genealogy Association]

visits since 5/1/2001