For Richard Hoffman (80), art has always been part of his life. He grew up knowing he was â€œalways an artist.â€Â Richard fed his creative soul at a young age with doodles in the back of his notebook and with drawings of his favorite cartoon characters.Â Born and raised in Newark, NJ, he attended Weequahic High School and went to college at Seton Hall. Though his parents were not thrilled with him choosing art as a career, Richard notes â€œI knew I couldnâ€™t help myself, I had to draw.â€
He was driven to trust his talents and found work as an illustrator. He focused on developing his comic strips and illustrating and writing childrenâ€™s stories that brought his life into his art. Richard self-published four illustrated books highlighting his love of visual storytelling and favorite Jewish recipes.Â In â€œOld World Secrets, with Jewish Recipesâ€ he writes a reflective story of his ancestors coming to the U.S. and how he met his wife, Rosalyn, a nurse by profession who was a great mother, supportive wife, and passionate cook. She had a fascination with giraffes with her favorite being, Jeromeâ€”a 2ft giraffe sculptor that Richard keeps since her passing in 2000. His comic strip, Tippy and RachelÂ¸ ran for 3 years in the Somerset paper, The Setonian, and his illustrated childrenâ€™s story, A Turtle Named Harry, shares a tale of a good Samaritan who finds a lost turtle rescues, nurtures, and reunites it with its family. Richard taught art and driverâ€™s education, which inspired him to share his talents within his community. Whether he was sketching and painting a mural at a hospital or creating a 3-foot replica of the constitution, Richard filled his life with creative pursuits and trusted his artistic vision to: â€œIf I can see it, I can do it!â€
One of his last murals was in 2015 at the age of 73 when he recreatedÂ The KissÂ (â€œDer Kussâ€) by Austrian painter Gustave Klimt for a senior center in northern Israel. When speaking on this experience, he shares that he was honored and delighted to be invited to uplift the spirits of seniors abroad. Over the years, he has expressed himself through shapes, colors and textures, which has helped him embrace lifeâ€™s beauty and nourish his soul. JFS staff recently visited Richard, where he shared his appreciation for JFSâ€™ Kosher Meals on Wheels (KMOW), and the kind and caring staff who reach out to him weekly. He states, â€œThe meals are important. I stay at home and appreciate JFS checking in.â€ When asked what his favorite dish from KMOW was, he said â€œthe stuffed cabbage.â€ Though, he admits it doesnâ€™t compare to his wifeâ€™s stuffed cabbage–a recipe he includes in one of his illustrated books.