Bernhard J. (Bernie) Hoffacker, original owner of Palo Alto Bicycles, died Dec. 5, a few days short of his 92nd birthday, from complications from a broken hip.
Described as "not only innovative, but open-minded" by Jeff Selzer, Palo Alto Bicycles store manager, "he had a fascinating life" -- including a stint as a professional baseball player.
A Palo Alto High School graduate (1934), Hoffacker excelled in baseball and was inducted in Menlo College's Hall of Fame in 1936. He then played professionally for the San Francisco Seals -- for whom he fielded grounders from coach Ty Cobb at Stanford University on weekends and roomed on the road with teammate Dominic DiMaggio.
After retiring from pro baseball in 1941, he coached semi-pro, Babe Ruth and Little League teams.
After World War II, when he and his brother Ed Jr. were running Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World, Hoffacker spent much of his time repairing bicycles.
"He was very mechanically inclined," Selzer said.
Palo Alto Bicycles began as a spin-off in the early 1970s to the family-owned sport and toy shop. He ran it independently until he retired in the mid-1980s and sons Bernhard (Bud) and Neal took over.
In 1975, Hoffacker started what became one of the first bicycle mail-order catalogs, with his sons traveling to Europe to buy hard-to-get parts for racers, Selzer recalled. That business soon begat another: Avocet, which made bike shoes, saddles, tires and the first electronic cyclometer, he said.
But one of Selzer's favorite memories is the store's sponsorship of a bike team in the late 1970s.
"One of the riders was a skinny kid out of Reno. He was a skier who rode bicycles in the summer to stay in shape," he said. Years later, Greg Lemond returned to Palo Alto Bicycles, crediting the team with encouraging him to enter the Tour de France -- which he won three times.
Hoffacker is survived by his wife of 68 years, Marjorie, of Palo Alto; his daughter Lyle Caudillo of San Jose; his sons Bud of Woodside, Neal of Portola Valley and Ronnie of Santa Cruz; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial mass will be held Monday, Dec. 14, at 2 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 751 Waverley St., Palo Alto.