Dorothy ‘Doris’ von der Hoff

May 11, 1920 - Jan. 18, 2008

Dorothy Ruth Erika ‘Doris’ von der Hoff of La Crosse passed away suddenly at her home Friday, Jan. 18, 2008, at age 87. Doris was born May 11, 1920, in Kattowitz, Germany.

As a young child, she cultivated a love for swimming and diving, having joined a swim club in Liegntz. In winter, she skied throughout the mountains of Germany. At age 21, she became enamored with ballet and attended operas and the theater. She met and married her first husband, Alfred Kutzner, at age 21, but was widowed by age 24 when Alfred was killed in action in Moldova during World War II. A few months after the war ended, she had to flee westward from the Czechs and Russians, trying to find the Allied Forces in Frankfurt. This incredible journey took more than three months, mostly on foot, covering hundreds of miles.

Once in Frankfurt, she began dancing with a small theater group which performed in American military clubs. There she met Henry O. ‘Von’ von der Hoff, whom she married in 1948. They sailed to America and settled in Denver, where she became an American citizen in 1952. After moving to Baraboo, she started a ballet school in the basement of her home. Relocating to Waukesha in the early 1960s, she established another ballet school where thousands of students studied under her. Several of them went on to enjoy successful professional careers. She was a member of the founding body of the Milwaukee Ballet Company and in 1992, she was honored as its first faculty member emeritus.

Widowed again in 1982 and finally retiring in 1992, Doris relocated to La Crosse, where she served as a volunteer for patient services at Gundersen/Lutheran Hospital. She loved to read and enjoyed discussing politics and world affairs, as well as traveling back to Europe.

Doris is survived by her three children, Erika Zimmer (Tom) of La Crosse, H. Otto von der Hoff II (Therese) of Washington, D.C., and H. Allen von der Hoff of Manchester, N.H.; eight grandchildren, Nicholas Kannard, H. Otto von der Hoff III, Ashley von der Hoff, Erik von der Hoff, Hannah von der Hoff, Alex von der Hoff, Will von der Hoff and Christopher Zimmer; two great-grandchildren, Sarah Kannard and Kaden Zimmer; and her cousin, Ingrid Thomson of Missoula, Mont.

Doris was preceded in death by her mother, father, stepfather and her first husband (all in Germany) and her beloved husband, Henry O. von der Hoff.

A memorial celebration of Doris’ life is scheduled at the Dickinson Family Funeral Home, 1425 Jackson St., La Crosse. Friends may call from 11 a.m. until the time of services at noon Friday, Jan. 25.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations are requested to the Milwaukee Ballet Company or the Gundersen/Lutheran Foundation.

Dickinson Family Funeral Home, (608) 784-0135, is serving the family.