A cluster of COVID-19 cases around Huron, S.D., including a 74-year-old lawmaker and his 51-year-old niece, who both died of the disease, left two South Dakota Mennonite Brethren congregations mourning their loss.
Bob Glanzer, a member of the South Dakota House of Representatives, was one of the first people in the state diagnosed with COVID-19. A member of Bethesda Mennonite Brethren Church in Huron, Glanzer was diagnosed March 22 and died April 3.
Mari Hofer, Glanzer’s 51-year-old niece, died from the coronavirus March 28, less than six hours after going to the hospital. A member of Bethel Mennonite Brethren Church in Yale, Hofer did not test positive for COVID-19 until after her death.
The virus spread in the extended family as Glanzer’s wife, Penny, received treatment for breast cancer in early March. As she recovered at home, family members dropped by with meals or to help around the house. They did not know Bob Glanzer had the coronavirus.
Once he was hospitalized, the family isolated themselves. But by then it was too late, and family members started to display symptoms. Penny Glanzer, her sister and a brother-in-law tested positive, as eventually did Mari Hofer’s brother and son.
While Bob Glanzer was in the hospital, his wife was treated for COVID-19 and released from the Huron hospital. Son Tom told the Associated Press of the support his mother received from the community and said his family had grown closer.
“We’re all held together with that same bond of family and faith in God,” he said.
One member of the extended family that Tom was in contact with during this time was his cousin, Mari Hofer.
Hofer worked from her home on March 27, teaching her third-grade class at James Valley Christian School, which was closed due to the coronavirus.
That evening she had trouble breathing. Her husband, Quint, drove her to the Huron hospital. Unable to accompany her inside due to coronavirus protocols, he returned home.
Though health workers performed CPR for over an hour, Hofer died after being airlifted to the Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, where her uncle was also being treated.
The deaths were hard on the Bethel congregation, said church secretary Julie Hohm. Hofer was a member, and the Glanzers had been members when they were young before moving to Huron.
“We’ve had prayer caravans over the last few days, both in Huron and in the country by the homes of those affected by the disease and deaths, as well as by our school, James Valley Christian, where Mari taught third grade,” Hohm said.
Glanzer’s daughter, Sally Burkholder, lives with her husband, Brad, in Hesston, Kan., where Brad is lead pastor at Hesston Mennonite Brethren Church. Members of Hesston MB and the community organized a prayer caravan for the Burkholders.
Glanzer, who spent most of his career in banking, retired from American Bank & Trust in 2012. He was elected to the South Dakota House of Representatives in 2017. Rep. Lana Greenfield, chair of the House Education Committee, said Glanzer was a man of faith who led a legislative Bible study called the Catacomb Caucus.
Hofer had been a schoolteacher and a stay-at-home mom who recently returned to teaching at James Valley Christian School. She was active in the Huron community, using her talents of music, cooking and stewardship to bring people together.
“She was the best mother any kid could have. She was there for her family and kids at the drop of a hat,” Quint Hofer said. “She poured her life into their lives.”
From a report in Christian Leader, the USMB magazine, with the Associated Press, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, South Dakota Publishing Broadcasting, Keloland News and Kuhler Funeral Home.