Patricia Burstein
August 18, 1975 12:00 PM

The modest two-story house has been enlarged, winterized and given a new skin of white aluminum siding. It sits in a working-class neighborhood, overlooking Square Lake, about 40 miles from Detroit. Outside the house last week broad-shouldered teamsters, assisted by a German shepherd, patrolled the grounds, keeping reporters and the curious public at bay.

Inside the Jimmy Hoffa family kept a stoic vigil. In the oak-paneled, blue-carpeted living room Barbara Hoffa Crancer sat by an unlisted telephone that had been hooked into a cassette recorder. A handwritten reminder, “Don’t stay on too long!”, was Scotch-taped to a lamp. Nearby her brother, James, fielded incoming calls on another phone. In the kitchen their dazed mother, Josephine Hoffa, and a friend washed dishes after a chicken tetrazzini dinner. Nearly a week had passed since husband and father Jimmy, the feisty, erstwhile boss of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, had vanished. “My father always said the two worst things were kidnapping little kids for money and dope-pushing,” said Barbara. “He would think it was disgusting to take a man away from his family.” But had Hoffa been kidnapped? Or was he the victim of a gangland hit?

The family knew that on the day of his disappearance Hoffa had a luncheon appointment with Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone, a prominent don in the Detroit Mafia. On his way to the restaurant Hoffa chatted with two business associates and mentioned that Anthony Provenzano, a former Teamsters official, and Leonard Schultz, a labor negotiator, might also attend the lunch. At 2:30 p.m. Josephine Hoffa got a phone call from her husband asking if Tony Jack had called—he had failed to keep their lunch date. There were no calls, Josephine said, and Hoffa told her that he would be home by 4 p.m. That was the family’s last word from him. The next morning police found his empty 1974 Pontiac in the parking lot of a suburban restaurant.

Barbara Crancer, 37, wife of a steel executive, left her husband, who is recovering from an automobile accident in a St. Louis hospital, and flew to her mother. “I cried for half an hour on the plane. But we’re all holding up now.” James, 34, a Detroit lawyer, rushed back from a Traverse City, Mich. vacation. Both children were deeply concerned about their mother, who had a stroke in 1967 and who suffers from heart disease and cataracts. “But she’s amazingly strong,” said Barbara.

Mrs. Hoffa left her home only once during the first days of the vigil—in a battered car to attend mass with neighbors. In church she thought she was daydreaming when the priest asked the congregation to pray for her husband. “At first I wasn’t sure,” she mumbled, “but then I realized he was talking about Jimmy.”

The young Hoffas manned the telephone in shifts, hoping for some clue. They called U.S. Attorney General Edward Levi and FBI Director Clarence Kelley to demand federal assistance. “Dad always said you have to keep your wits about you,” said Barbara, “or else you’re no good.” After the FBI entered the case Barbara called Kelley again to complain that it was not enough: “You used 2,000 agents to put my father in jail, and up to now you’ve used only two agents to try to find him.”

The Hoffa scrappiness was typical of her father’s years as Teamsters czar. It was on display more recently as Hoffa fought to reclaim the union leadership from Frank E. Fitzsimmons, the man he had designated from prison as his stand-in. Despite her father’s bitter feud with Fitzsimmons, Barbara Crancer called the Teamsters chief last week to ask for help. “He said he would let us know if he found out anything,” shrugged Barbara. The family has offered a $200,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts and safe return of Hoffa.

The vigil of the family went on, and with each passing day, the mystery of James R. Hoffa, Missing Person #75-3425, deepened. “Oh, Daddy!”, cried Barbara, as she stepped out on the porch and noticed a pair of work gloves at her feet. “These are his,” she said sadly, and put them on a picnic table.

You May Like