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Jack L. Hofer, hosted bluegrass music at his Sandpiper Inn bar in Dundalk, dies

Jack L. Hofer, hosted bluegrass music at his Sandpiper Inn bar in Dundalk, dies
Jack Hofer

Jack L. Hofer, who owned Dundalk’s Sandpiper Inn and hosted bluegrass music performers at his bar, died of surgical complications July 23 at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He was 82 and lived in Dundalk.

Born in Harlan, Kentucky, he was the son of Jacob Hofer and his wife Edna. He attended public schools through eighth grade and moved to East Baltimore with his mother in the 1950s. Friends said he was a self-made man and arrived in Baltimore with little money.

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During the Cold War he served in the Army.

He went into food service and worked in the cafeterias at the General Motors Broening Highway plant and at Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point.

He later founded his own vending machine business and served taverns and restaurants with cigarette and poker machines. Friends said he was a skilled vending machine mechanic.

Mr. Hofer was a fan of the bluegrass music he grew up with in Kentucky. He visited bars where bluegrass performers appeared and had dreams of opening his own venue. He had been a regular at the Cub Hill Inn and other venues.

He also was a regular visitor at bluegrass events at the Arcadia Volunteer Fire Company in Baltimore County. About 40 years ago he began a search for what he thought would be an ideal bar to showcase bluegrass music.

In the early 1980s he found the Sandpiper Inn on the Back River in Dundalk. It had been a bikers bar and Mr. Hofer changed its format. He established his own rules — no foul language, no service to minors, and directives about closing hours. He initially also served breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

He brought in bluegrass artists — The Boys of Indiana and the James King Band. Friends said he made the Sandpiper the home to bluegrass in the Baltimore.

“The bar had a friendly atmosphere, but when it came to business, Jack was a good, stern businessman. He liked rules. And he never put up with nonsense,” said a neighbor, Shelley Bode Thiemann. “But having the bluegrass music and all his friends around him make Jack so happy.”

She said he was well respected in the music community and had met Lester Flatts and Earl Scruggs on visits to their performances in Tennessee.

She described Mr. Hofer as independent and generous.

“He liked his freedom and he did things his own way. It was his way or it was wrong,” she said.

Friends said that on a busy weekend, the Sandpiper would have 100 patrons and there was occasionally a line waiting for admission.

“All the bluegrass players in Baltimore knew him,” said a friend, Dee Gunter. “And he had tons of friends. His personality was pleasant, but he was serious when he was running his bar.”

Mr. Gunter said the bar’s music was acoustic and featured five-piece bands — a guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo and upright bass.

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Another friend, Buster Boyd, said that Mr. Hofer built a garage near the bar and was generous with allowing persons to use his tools and repair their vehicles.

“He hunted elk in Colorado,” said Mr. Boyd, who accompanied him on trips. “We loved being out in the woods but hardly ever saw anything to shoot. Being such a good mechanic, Jack knew a lot about guns and how they worked."

Mr. Hofer visited bluegrass festivals over the country and joined the International Bluegrass Music Association.

“Many entertainers started out playing at the Sandpiper,” said Ms. Thiemann. “And some went on to play at the Grand Ole Opry. Jack was so proud when this happened.”

Mr. Hofer also made banjos and other acoustic instruments in his workshop. He was a fan of old Western movies and kept a cutout, life sized photo of John Wayne at the bar.

He owned a recreational vehicle and made road trips to his family in Kentucky, where he regularly visited his mother’s grave.

A life celebration service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday Aug. 3 at the Sandpiper Inn, 4040 Beach Road in Dundalk.

Mr. Hofer’s marriage ended in divorce. He has an adopted son, Jonathan Hofer, with whom he had lost contact.

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