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VC Reunion: Home runs, a rescued romance, dorm tales and a friendship since 1951

Sept. 16, 2011 at 4:16 a.m.

Helen Friedel listens as her husband Jim, a Victoria College alum, discusses his memories from Victoria College in the late 1940s.  Jim Friedel attended VC from 1949-50 and played basketball for the school.

Glenn Hoffman was crouched over, pointing toward a 1951 photograph of his former Victoria College roommate when he glanced up to a 60-year time warp.

There was Frank Zaruba, the teenager in the photo, already leaning in for a hug.

"You haven't changed that much," Hoffman, 78, said.

"Oh, come on!" Zaruba, 79, responded.

The former VC athletes hadn't seen each other in more than 25 years, they guessed, but their jabs were familiar and their tales were peppered with fresh details.

They were at Victoria College's alumni reunion Friday night, surrounded by old letter jackets, photo albums, newspaper clippings, a 1950s winter gown and a pink nursing uniform from the college's first nursing class.

Hoffman and Zaruba settled in the middle of VC's "Memory Lane" exhibit, and it didn't take long for the memories to pour out of the two men.

"I wasn't the greatest ball player," said Zaruba, who lives in Hallettsville.

"Yeah you were," Hoffman said, proceeding to tell the story about the night his roommate hit a home run for the Victoria Rosebuds. He ended up coming back to the dorms with a hat packed with $28 in fan money - or what it would take Hoffman 56 hours to make cleaning yards.

"I still remember the pitch. It was a curve ball," Zaruba said.

Zaruba countered Hoffman's flattery by revealing Hoffman won first place in the national pole vaulting competition while at the college.

But beyond sports, there was a love story for Hoffman at VC - a love story that might not have lasted 58 years were it not for Zaruba.

Hoffman, who now lives in San Antonio, met his wife, Lillian Hanson Hoffman, while the two were dissecting tapeworms in a VC biology lab, though he never made his move in that decidedly unromantic setting.

"I didn't think I was making any time with her. I was timid," he said.

But one Friday while walking through Cuero, a 1947 Chevrolet pulled up behind Hoffman while he was hitchhiking home to Somerset.

Lillian was in the driver's seat, and she offered him a ride across town.

"Bingo," Hoffman boomed. "That weekend was the longest weekend of my life."

Hoffman beamed when he said the couple were instant admirers of each other, but Zaruba was anxious to tease Hoffman with another one of their tales from their year as roommates.

"He and Lillian got into a spat," Zaruba explained.

"She was too..." Hoffman struggled to find the right word. "Correct," he settled on.

Zaruba continued, telling of how his dad had lent him his 1931 Chevrolet under the condition that Zaruba not let anyone else drive the vehicle.

But Hoffman begged, and Zaruba couldn't ignore his buddy's distress. So, he let Hoffman borrow the Chevy so he could drive to Cuero to win Lillian back.

"He came back after midnight and said, 'We made up,'" Zaruba said.

The Hoffmans celebrated their 58th anniversary in August.

But back at VC, it was just Hoffman and Zaruba together again, chatting with as much energy as they probably had when they were playing music together in the dorm rooms. The men's conversation never broke for a breath until they paused to remember how they ended up rooming together that one year at VC.

"I think He put us together," Hoffman decided, pointing to the heavens. "Because it was everlasting."



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