Garage sale find turns lucky for former Lakewood man

Carol Crowley thought she’d found a real deal at an Everett yard sale. The bag of used clothing was free.

The Arlington woman looked inside the sack and saw something she’d never wear. Even so, she knew it was priceless.

What she found was a letterman’s jacket. Maroon and gold, it had a varsity letter “L,” a soccer ball, and a name patch, “Jeffery,” on the front.

“I just could not believe somebody would throw away something with that much meaning. I didn’t know if maybe a child had died,” Crowley said.

She had stopped at the yard sale on Lombard Avenue in north Everett about two weeks ago. Several older women were running it, she said.

Crowley knew the jacket was valuable. Her own grandson’s letterman’s jacket cost several hundred dollars. “A lot of old guys still have their jackets,” she said.

Back home, the 60-year-old was determined to solve the mystery. She opened her phone book to hunt for the last name on the jacket – Hofmann.

Crowley called J. Hofmann, of Marysville, and heard the same answer I did when I dialed the number last week. “That’s my nephew,” Jodie Hofmann said. “He’s in the Air Force.”

Jodie Hofmann shared with Crowley the unlisted number of Jeffery’s parents. Dynette and Steve Hofmann, who live in the Smokey Point area, were thrilled at their luck.

They hadn’t seen their son’s jacket since before his car was stolen from their driveway the winter of his senior year at Lakewood High School. He graduated in 2003.

“I was crying when Carol called me,” Dynette Hofmann said. “They say things come back to you. I couldn’t believe anybody would be that nice.”

When she called her 22-year-old son, an airman first class at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, Dynette Hofmann teased him about a surprise. “I didn’t actually tell him what it was. I wanted to make him guess,” Dynette Hofmann said. “I said, ‘It’s maroon and gold,’ and he just said, ‘You’re kidding.’ “

“I think he was a little bit stunned,” said Steve Hofmann, who remembered the morning he discovered his son’s Honda Prelude had vanished.

“I work a graveyard shift at Boeing. I came home, didn’t see his car in the driveway, and thought he’d gotten up and gone to school on time. I went inside and saw he was still getting ready,” Steve Hofmann said.

From his home in San Antonio, Jeff Hofmann recalled that same unlucky morning. “I had been out late at a basketball game the night before, and I’d left all my stuff in the car – schoolbooks, bags, my jacket. I got up in the morning, it was all gone.”

When sheriff’s deputies found Jeff’s car several days later near Gold Bar, it was missing tires, rims, a stereo, CDs, books, drawings Jeff Hofmann had done for art class, and the jacket his parents had given him for Christmas.

He played varsity soccer, as a defender, all four years at Lakewood, which was signified by the jacket’s four stripes.

His mother couldn’t recall the exact price, but jackets with leather sleeves are generally more than $200 before insignias are added.

“When you buy the patches separately, it adds up. We couldn’t afford to replace it,” said Dynette Hofmann, who’ll take the coat to the dry cleaners before shipping it to her son.

“I wore it all the time,” Jeff Hofmann said. “Suddenly, it’s gone and I never thought I would see it again.”

The airman enlisted shortly after graduation. He works inspecting flight equipment and in safety training at the Texas base.

Crowley said when she took the jacket to the Hofmanns’ home, Jeff’s mother held onto it. “The stories that jacket holds within its seams are immeasurable,” Crowley said.

She’s right, it’s a keepsake. Steve Hofmann, a 1981 graduate of Marysville-Pilchuck High, still has his school jacket. He lettered in wrestling.

Jeff Hofmann was married last year. When he heard he’d soon have his letter jacket back, he had news for his bride, Samantha.

“I told my wife I’m going to wear it for awhile, to make up for lost time,” he said.

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or

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