Ken Hofer, center, receives the Ron Wipfli Person of the Year Award at Thursday’s Marinette Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner. Chamber president Keith Mattson, left, and Jerry Derusha, right, presented the award. <br> Special to the EagleHerald
Ken Hofer, center, receives the Ron Wipfli Person of the Year Award at Thursday’s Marinette Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner. Chamber president Keith Mattson, left, and Jerry Derusha, right, presented the award.
Special to the EagleHerald

MARINETTE - Ken Hofer has never been a sucker for anything.

Except maybe one time - at Thursday's Marinette Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner and awards ceremony.

Hofer attended the event, thinking he'd watch his football coaching protégé, Jerry Derusha, receive an award. Instead, Hofer was the recipient of the Ron Wipfli Person of the Year Award.

"The look on his face - I was in tears," said Chamber president Keith Mattson. "He's not a 'me' person. He's about everybody else. I've admired him for that all my life. He's one of the most down-to-earth guys you could ever meet."

And, a pretty fair football coach.

Last year, Hofer retired after serving 41 years as Menominee Maroon head football coach. His career record - including two years at the helm of his alma mater, Stephenson, was 320-128-3. As Maroon coach, Hofer's record was 314-119-1.

Hofer's Maroons won state titles in 1998, 2006 and '07. He has been inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches and Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame. Along the way, he established a model for excellence on and off the field.

Hofer taught football and he taught lessons in life. He has kept in contact with generations of his former players, offering advice and support.

The Ron Wipfli Person of the Year Award was established in 1980 in the name of a beloved banker who gave to the community.

The cat didn't get out of the bag until Mattson stepped to the podium. "Ken didn't know it - 225 people there, and mind you, nobody else in the room knows it either."

So, Mattson explained what the award is about, and asked Derusha to step forward and help out.

Mattson nominated Hofer, and a 30-member panel including the chamber board of directors and executive directors voted to make Hofer the recipient.

It was special for Mattson, who is Hofer's nephew.

"Very emotional for me because it was my mother's only brother, and I lost my mother in May (2012)," Mattson said.