• Jim Hoffsis, who tended to the Old Town Plaza flags for 47 years, dies at 93
  • Sawmill's ACE Leadership High School focuses on in-demand trades
  • Little Red Hamburger Hut renovation still on track
Jim Hoffsis, who tended to the Old Town Plaza flags for 47 years, dies at 93
Hoffsis also worked as a kind of literary ambassador to customers at Treasure House Books, which is operated by his son, John Hoffsis. The store recently posted this photo on social media.
In 1974, Jim Hoffsis had just concluded a 20-year stint as a sales rep for Chevron, moved his family to Albuquerque, and opened a gift shop in Old Town. He had his hands full, to be sure, but he still took the time to notice that something was amiss about the plaza: The flagpoles had no flags.

It was a mistake his fellow merchants at the time didn't show much interest in correcting: "You should have heard the damn excuses," he told DAN in the summer of 2020.

So Hoffsis, whose appreciation for the flag was sparked in childhood and honed by a three-year deployment in the Korean War, where he served under President Dwight Eisenhower's son, offered the city a deal: If they replaced the ropes on the polls with some more durable metal cables, he would buy the flags and make sure they were displayed.

They took him up on it, and he kept up his end of the twice-daily bargain for the next 47 years.
Jim Hoffsis (left), with his son, John, lowering the flags in the summer of 2020.
Jim Hoffsis died on October 8 at the age of 93. He is survived by his son, John Hoffsis, who confirmed the death, as well as three step-grandchildren and four step-great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death in 2001 by his wife of 52 years, Joe Ann Hoffsis. A memorial service will be held on November 10 at 10 a.m. at French's Mortuary (1111 University Boulevard NE). In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Albuquerque chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association.

Hoffsis had previously sat on the city's Landmarks Commission and the Lodgers Tax Board, as well as on the board of the Historic Old Town Property Owners Association, where he had also served as president. He was active with local branches of the Shriners, American Legion, and two Freemason organizations.

But in Old Town, he will be most remembered for the flags and for his work as a kind of customer service rep at Treasure House Books, which is operated by his son.

"I always called him the world's best book salesman. He'd always say to people 'We read the books, we can tell you all about them. We just won't tell you the ending,'" John Hoffsis said. "Visitors from all over would come back to the shop yearly just to talk with him." 

Jim Hoffsis did, however, leave behind one major piece of unfinished business. He had for many years set his sights on breaking the world age record for skydiving, which is presently held by an Australian woman who made the jump in 2018 at the age of 102.

"Lately I've had the thought of sky diving in his honor at some point, either soon (when I can afford to) or by shooting for the 103 mark myself," John Hoffsis said. "Depends on how crazy my wife thinks I am."

The daily flag raising and lowering, meanwhile, will go on: "I will continue to put them up daily and/or weather permitting as long as I still own the shop," he said.
Sawmill's ACE Leadership High School focuses on in-demand trades
Student Brian Becerra operates a backhoe as part of ACE Leadership High School's Heavy Equipment Rodeo, an event where industry partners introduce the kids to the large equipment used on job sites.
Tucked away at the eastern edge of the Sawmill neighborhood is a high school that's doing things a little differently. In addition to more common subjects, they offer hands-on learning in the fields of architecture, construction, and engineering - something they shorten to ACE.

ACE Leadership High School was launched in 2011 amid a broader trend of high schools drifting away from vocational classes in favor of preparing students for traditional four-year colleges. The founding principle of the school is that plenty of students would rather skip office-based careers and follow a different path into the trades.

"Students often get pushed into more traditional settings," said Matthew Salas, the school's community engagement director. "ACE Leadership was started because the ACE industries were struggling to find employees, and the school helps fill that void."

Careers in the trades often offer great pay and advancement opportunities, but Salas said they are frequently overlooked or avoided by students because many people have an unfounded negative view of these jobs.

"That stigma is there, and people really push for the traditional settings: Go to college, get a four-year degree, and go to work," he said. "But that's not always what people want. Some like to work with their hands, build things, and design things. Much of society kind of looks down on that for really no good reason."

ACE Leadership offers the chance to learn those overlooked skills while still providing the foundation of a traditional high school education - something they accomplished by working typical lesson plans into hands-on projects.

For instance, a group of students is currently learning about the Sawmill district, Martineztown, and Barelas by studying the history of the areas and meeting with people in the communities. As a final project, they will design their own model city based on what they've learned.

Another group of students is learning the science behind electricity while building a mobile solar panel. ACE Leadership students have also built a pop-up playground at the school in conjunction with the New Mexico American Society of Landscape Architects.

Through these hands-on learning projects, some students even earn industry certifications by the time they graduate, allowing them to get jobs right after graduation. Students also have access to both paid and unpaid internships and apprenticeships.

"It's a guided experience so that they don't get lost, as a lot of graduates do with other schools," Salas said.

With about 200 students currently enrolled, Salas says there are at least two teachers per class, with a teacher-student ratio of 20:1.

ACE Leadership also offers evening classes for students ages 18 to 22 who have been out of school for a while, or those who are behind on credits. Salas says it's a good option for people with full-time jobs or family commitments during the day.

"It's definitely a change for students that need it - that struggle in larger schools, or struggle in the traditional classroom setting," he said. "It's a good change."
Renovation of Little Red Hamburger Hut continues
A plan to turn the former Little Red Hamburger Hut (Fifteenth and Mountain) into some kind of restaurant with a health and wellness bent (DAN, 4/6/21) is still on track, owner Sabrina Coulie said.

"The building renovation is slow because we're doing it ourselves," Coulie said. "My brother took out the old ceiling, which seems to be mostly made of dirt. It was a huge mess, but the building is awesome and eventually will be restored."
Downtown Albuquerque News covers greater Downtown, which we generally define as the area created by I-40, the Rio Grande, and the railroad tracks. We publish weekdays except for federal holidays. If someone forwarded DAN to you, please consider subscribing. To subscribe, contact us, submit a letter to the editor, or learn more about what we do, click here. If you ever run into technical trouble receiving DAN, click here.
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