Ray always said he got his job with the U.S. Forest Service because he had the right hiking boots. During a field trip while still a graduate student at Washington State University, a researcher from the Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station (now the Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station) in Moscow, Idaho was so impressed he hired him. That set off Ray’s 30 year career with the Forest Service where he was a leading expert in blister rust-resistant western white pine and whitebark pine trees.
He was born June 8, 1934 in Bellingham, Washington to Raymond and Hazel Nichols Hoff. His great grandfathers Hans Christian Hoff and Kristen Tollum immigrated from Norway. Hans eventually moved his family to Nebraska and finally settled in Lawrence Township of Whatcom County, Washington. Ray was proud of his Norwegian heritage. He’d learned to make lefse from his aunts, which was not only an annual Christmas tradition in his own family, but something he often made for dinner while his kids were growing up.
Ray married Kathleen (Kay) Young, on his birthday in 1957 after graduating from Western Washington University. That same year, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent two years working as an Army company clerk at Fitzsimons Army Hospital near Denver. Their first son, Doral, was born in 1959. They returned to Pullman where Ray attended graduate school at Washington State University and their second son, Bruce, was born in 1963. Kay passed away in 1978. Later, Ray met Bettie Bailey Hill and they married on March 2, 1980. Bettie had two young daughters, Marcia and Shelley, who Ray raised as his own.
After earning a doctorate in botany from Washington State University in 1968, Ray conducted research as a Forest Service geneticist and was the genetics research project leader for 18 years. Ray designed and implemented a tree breeding management program with genetically variable blister rust-resistant trees. He loved his work and even brought it home growing seedlings in his greenhouse. Local, national, and international forest managers often sought his advice. Because of his expertise, Ray was invited to China, India, and Switzerland to work with other forest researchers.
Ray always loved the outdoors. Growing up he climbed Mount Shuksan and skied Mount Baker in Whatcom County, Washington. After moving to Moscow, Idaho he enjoyed taking his family to the slopes in Kimberly, Canada and McCall, Idaho or skiing and hiking near Sandpoint, Idaho. Once he retired in 1994, Ray had more time to pursue his love of gardening and he relandscaped their three-quarter acre yard using many native plants. He and Bettie became serious bird watchers and traveled extensively visiting Europe, Mexico, Central America, Cuba, Hawaii and the western United States. They also took up tennis and played many times a week with local tennis groups and their family.
He was well known in the Moscow community for his love and knowledge of plants and you’d often find him talking with others who shared his passion. In May, just two months before his death, fellow hikers came up to chat with him during a Palouse Land Trust wildflower hike on Idler’s Rest at the base of Moscow Mountain. He was a member of the White Pine Chapter Idaho Native Plant Society, Latah County Historical Society, and the Palouse Audubon Society.
Ray died on July 9 at Gritman Medical Center in Moscow after a long battle with cancer. He is preceded in death by his first wife Kay, son Bruce, and sister Joy Anderson. He is survived by his wife Bettie, son Doral (Jodi), step-daughters Marcia Hill Gossard (Jeff) and Shelley Hill, grandchildren Magda Hoff (Patrick), Brysen Hoff, and Julian Gossard, brother Douglas (Lela) and sisters Karon Severson and Theresa Schuler, and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
A memorial service will be held from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m., Sunday, September 30 in the Great Room of the 1912 Center, 412 East Third Street in Moscow.
In honor and memory of Ray Hoff, the family suggests gifts to the Ray Hoff Memorial Arboretum Fund at the University of Idaho. Please send gifts to:
Ray Hoff Memorial Arboretum Fund
c/o University of Idaho Foundation
875 Perimeter Drive – MS 3143