Anya Hoffman passed away on March 5, 2021, from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. She died as she lived, a fighter to the end, always prepared to take on the challenges that life presented her and to enjoy its pleasures to the fullest. She was born on April 3, 1935, In the Bronx, New York, the youngest child of Samuel Hoffman and Rose Saidel Hoffman, who had immigrated in the early 1900s from the part of Russia now known as Belarus. Her siblings, May Hoffman Radding, Edith Hoffman Barry, and Benjamin Hoffman all preceded her in death. None of the Hoffman sisters used the names on their birth certificates! May was initially Mildred; Edith was Ida, and Anya was originally Ethel. She changed her name in her 40’s, as she began to more fully manifest the powerhouse woman she hadn’t been able to fully express before.
Though she was the baby of the family, she was independent at an early age. She told stories of navigating the subway from the age of 7 to visit the museums and libraries of Manhattan on her own (though this might have been as much the result of being insufficiently supervised, as much as her independence)! Her father died when she was just a girl, and when she was 16 her mother died as well. She then lived with her sister Edith‘s family until she married Herb Biskar.
Anya & Herb welcomed their three children into their family: Jonathan, Sanford, and Paul Biskar, (married to Anne Marie). Being the Mom to three extremely energetic & curious boys was a handful. She once told the story of a time when she took the boys on a train trip to San Diego, and by the time they arrived, the dress she was wearing was so destroyed she had to throw it away! But their home was always lively, interesting, and full of love. In 1972 they moved with their children to Portland, Oregon.
Anyone who knew Anya was familiar with her wry, irreverent sense of humor. She usually took the opportunity to try on a crazy hat and was known to hang a spoon on her nose at a family dinner. But mostly she could find the funny in any situation, and her laughter would fill the room. Though not a traditionally observant Jew, Anya embraced her cultural heritage. She famously hosted a large and hilarious family Chanukah party for many years, presiding over the event with an Auntie Mame-inspired cigarette holder in hand. She could shop! Somehow she always found the $80 item for $7.50, and she could take some forgotten and forlorn item, bring it home, and place it in the perfect location to make it look like a million bucks.
Anya had the creative sensibilities of an artist. Her beautifully decorated home was always warm and welcoming, filled with treasures she collected from around the world. She was an excellent and intuitive cook. When you thought there was nothing in the refrigerator to eat, she could pull out a few things and create a delicious meal you didn’t imagine was possible. She always had some creative project she was working on, whether it was knitting a sweater, re-finishing a cabinet, making jewelry, or tending her plants. She had such a green thumb that she graduated from the Landscape Technology Department at Portland Community College, developed an interior landscape business, and co-authored a book, Green Plants For Gray Days. She was always ready for adventure, and traveled widely in Europe, Asia, Mexico, and the U.S., collecting beautiful artifacts and memories along the way. She appreciated music, dance, and theater, and even when ticket prices were prohibitive, she found a way — by volunteering as an usher.
She was a champion of progressive causes. She worked in the labor movement, made her voice heard at protest marches, supported progressive candidates, and engaged in passionate discussions about politics throughout her life.
A woman of many interests, she earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Evergreen College in 1981 and then opened a psychotherapy practice. In addition to traditional talk therapy, she studied Neo-Reichian therapy, Bioenergetics, hypnotherapy, and massage. Through these professional pursuits, she also met an extraordinary group of women, who established a group to discuss clinical cases with each other. This group evolved over the years into an incredibly rich network of friendships that, even after many of them had retired from practice, continued to sustain and support them all for 40 years. Though grieving the loss of Anya, the group continues. The same qualities she used in her practice of psychotherapy — empathy and a willingness to tell the truth — also made her a reliable source of support to family and friends.
In 1984, some years after divorcing Herb, Anya moved to the Washington D.C. area, where she met Ernest Culman, whose warmth and kindness won her heart. They married in 1992. As was her way, she made many more friends. She also established other branches of her career. Working for the Jewish Community Center, she worked with seniors, planning events and organizing field trips. In addition, she ran support groups for divorced women for a number of years. She took specialized courses on exercise for elders with arthritis and then conducted classes, keeping her students motivated by creating her musical playlists using hits from their younger years. Running around from senior center to senior center, teaching up to a dozen classes a week also kept her in shape. In 2016 Anya and Ernie moved back to Portland, not long after Anya’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s; and then in 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, they moved once again to Palm Desert, California.
Anya is survived by her husband, her three sons and their families, several nieces and nephews, a granddaughter and a grandniece, and innumerable friends. She will be sorely missed.