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Thursday, February 29, 2024


Oct. 20, 2003 – Word was received in the territory on Monday of the death of Hans Loeffler, a German emigre who left his adopted home in Illinois to relocate a second time in the 1960s, to the Virgin Islands, where his accounting skills and his political acumen led to his influence in places of power.
He died in Atlanta on Thursday, Oct. 16, of complications associated with recent hip surgery. He had moved there two years ago to undergo treatment for several ailments, according to friends. He was 75.
Robert Mathes, a longtime friend, said plans for a memorial service will be announced. Loeffler's body was cremated and, according to his wishes, his ashes will be scattered on the Caribbean Sea, Mathes said.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull extended condolences on Monday afternoon, calling Loeffler "an accomplished accountant who did much to help modernize the preparation of our budgets and accounting practices," notably in the Legislature and at the Water and Power Authority.
"Hans Loeffler was one of those persons who could have lived in many other places but chose the Virgin Islands because he loved the beauty of the environment, the friendly people and the political arena in which he seemed to revel," Turnbull said in a statement. "A grateful community mourns his passing and appreciates his many contributions."
Some of those who knew Loeffler well in the Virgin Islands agreed on Monday that while he was an intensely private individual, he had a flair for politics.
He was a "financial wizard," but more than that, "he was someone who knew the pulse of the community," Sen. Lorraine Berry said. "He had a lot to contribute, and he contributed a lot to this community. He was a walking encyclopedia. He could tell you anything you wanted to know going back to Earle B. Ottley or Ralph Paiewonsky."
Berry recalled working closely with him in the 18th Legislature, when she chaired the Finance Committee, and again in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo. "He was very instrumental in helping to develop a process" for dealing with the disaster, she said. "And he was my financial adviser when I was Senate president."
They didn't always agree, and Berry recalled one occasion when they clashed: "He did his analysis, and I did mine. I sent a note to my colleagues saying I believe the post auditor should be independent and have freedom without political interference. We remained friends."
"He was one of the stalwarts on the financial end of WAPA," career politician Elmo D. Roebuck said on Monday. "But when I really got to know him good was when he came to the Legislature as post auditor — a position I created."
Roebuck said Loeffler "above many" understood that "the Legislature shouldn't sit back and accept what the executive branch sends down. No matter who was writing what, he had an independent view." And his advice to the lawmakers, Roebuck, was "Consult me before you take action on anything financial."
"We were very close," Roebuck, who worked with Loeffler through eight legislative terms, continued. "We would talk politics and all the rest of the stuff. I've lost my good friend. He would come by the house — he would just show up, no invitation. I cook, you know, and he always wanted something to eat." Fortifying Loeffler with "some cake and some milk," he said, "we would get into so many things — reorganizing the Legislature."
Loeffler was born in Berlin in 1928. His family fled Nazi persecution in 1936, settling in Decatur, Illinois. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served on Gen. Douglas MacArthur's occupation staff in Tokyo immediately after the end of World War II.
Returning to civilian life, he utilized the G.I. Bill to earn an accounting degree from the University of Illinois, then went to work as a project auditor for the Government Accounting Office in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, he was sent to the Virgin Islands to audit VICORP during the early 1960s.
Thanks to his periodic audit trips, Loeffler became enthralled with the islands, the people and especially the politics of the territory. "He so impressed Gov. Ralph Paiewonsky that when WAPA was created from VICORP, Hans became the first interim head of the agency," Mathes said. Soon after, he left the federal service and opened an accounting office on St. Thomas. He lived for more than 35 years in a Raphune Hill cottage owned by Dr. Roy Anduze, Mathes recalled.
"Enjoying the rough and tumble local politics of the 1960s, Hans established himself as a political speechwriter and went on to serve as post auditor for the Legislature," Mathes said. He served on the WAPA board and on the Government Employees Services Commission and was active in Partners for Health among other community organizations. "He was particularly interested in V.I. youth and would generously extend himself to assist promising young people with his counsel," Mathes said.
"Hans attended every single party at my house," Roebuck said. "My children knew him well. He was somebody who was very close to me. I appreciated all the advice he gave me, even some I didn't take … I'd say, 'Hans, that can't work.' And he'd say, 'You've got to listen.'"
Loeffler never married but, Mathes said, did not lack for lady friends, in the true sense of friendship. "His main joys were reading The New York Times, relaxing with a biographical novel and engaging in spirited political discussions," Mathes said.
He had his favorite restaurants, and Hook Line and Sinker in Frenchtown was one of them. Co-owner Becky Luszc said on Monday afternoon: "We have really missed him in the past couple years. He was part of the Hook Line family."
Molly Morris, recalling her days waiting tables there while also reporting for the Source, cited Loeffler's delight in discussing politics. "He would always ask what I was working on and what I thought about it," she said. "Then he would set me straight about what really was going on. He was such a fountain of information — and political lore — and he could tell it with compassion and humor."
Among friends visiting Loeffler in Atlanta in recent months were Mathes and his wife, Marian, John de Jongh Jr. and Lorna Thomas from the Virgin Islands; and Patricia Goins of New Jersey. Aaron and Wilma Bloom of Atlanta, close friends of more than 50 years, were part of his support system over the last two years, Mathes said.
Berry said she last spoke with Loeffler "about three or four months ago, and he said how he missed the V.I. — that the V.I. was home."
Roebuck said Loeffler told him by telephone not long ago that he had had "a real good time working for the people of the Virgin Islands." He, too, quoted Loeffler as saying that "the V.I. is home."

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