Paul Joseph Hoffman is a journalist and author who was born in Madison, Wisconsin.
He was raised in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. He is a 1981 graduate of Wauwatosa East High School and attended both the University of Wisconsin – Madison and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, graduating from Milwaukee with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications (Radio/TV sequence) and a minor in English.
He is a career journalist, working as a sports writer at the Milwaukee Sentinel; assistant sports editor at Pioneer Press, a chain of weekly newspapers in suburban Chicago; sports editor and news editor at The Shelbyville News in Shelbyville, Indiana; news editor at The Republic in Columbus, Indiana; and his current position, special publications editor at the Daily Journal in Franklin, Indiana, since 2001.
His first book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” was published by The History Press in 2012. It is the true story of the disappearance of an 8-year-old boy in 1925.
He lives in Columbus, Indiana with his wife, Kimberly, and has a son, three daughters, two stepdaughters, and one granddaughter.
Book Summary (provided by Paul J. Hoffman)
August 2015 marked the 90th anniversary of one of the few unsolved murders committed in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, the killing of 8-year-old Arthur “Buddy” Schumacher Jr., son of a pharmaceutical supply salesman and grandson of one of the city’s key leaders in the early 20th century.
He was reportedly last seen by three friends after they hopped off a freight they’d hopped on to get a ride to a nearby swimming hole.
For seven weeks, the community and state searched desperately to find the boy before his body was found just a mile from his house with his clothing torn and a handkerchief shoved down his throat. It wasn’t long before police had what they thought was a sure case against a man who was living in a hobo camp near where the boy went missing. However, they were forced to let him go after witnesses changed their minds about key pieces of evidence against him.
A man who was serving a life sentence in Minnesota for the killing of a young boy there, later confessed to killing Buddy Schumacher. But police wavered in whether to believe him or not.
Nobody has ever stood trial for killing Buddy Schumacher.
My book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” that was published by The History Press in June 2012, discusses the reasons nobody was ever charged with the crime, as well as going into the background of main suspects, the Schumacher family and other key people involved in the investigation.
But it is much more than just a book about a murder. The book also hits subjects that touched this story, such as the state of mental health care during that time, homelessness, Prohibition and the forensic tools investigators had available to them. The book also shines a light on the good that came out of this tragedy and also raises several questions that have never been answered.
My Interview with Paul J. Hoffman
KYRIAN: Paul, why should people read this book?
PAUL: The themes presented in this book transcend time and place. The book discusses how a family attempts to deal with tragedy; how a small community is affected by the socio-economic trends that surround it; how to keep young children safe; what to do with the mentally challenged; and how some bit of good can eventually come from such a
KYRIAN: What are you working on at the moment?
PAUL: I am in the beginning stages of writing a screenplay based on “Murder in Wauwatosa.” Progress has slowed due to things that have come up in life. I hadn’t really considered writing more true crime books; I wrote this one because I had to … the incident had been bouncing around in the back of my brain for 35 years or so, and it had to come out. But I’ve recently been asked if I would write a book about true crimes in the area where I live, so I may take that offer. I would also like to publish a book of poetry since I started writing some of that again recently.
KYRIAN: What actor/actresses would you like to star in a movie based on the book?
PAUL: I always envisioned John Cusack playing the role of the father whose boy was murdered. He seems to have the type of personality that would carry over to that character and I have always admired his work. I hadn’t really thought too much about the rest of the cast. I also have the highest regard for Shawn Franklin, an actor I’ve seen in many local plays. He has the right skill set to play Art Schumacher, too.
KYRIAN: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
PAUL: I take this career a step at a time since it’s my secondary career for now. I make plans, but sometimes those plans get sidetracked, so I make new plans. Who knows what will eventually happen. I’ve been working as a journalist for the past 30 years, the past 15 as the editor of several specialty magazines, and I am not ready to give up the steady income.
KYRIAN: Which writers inspire you?
PAUL: Most of the writers who inspire me are those I personally know. Understanding their backgrounds and some of their daily struggles and triumphs makes their work even more special to me. Some of them are journalists, some authors, some poets. Among them are Dale Hofmann, Michael John Sullivan, Bobby Tanzilo, Ron Collins, Wendy Stenzel Oleston, and Matthew D. Jackson.
I enjoy reading various genres, and I pick up whatever interests me at a particular moment. So, there are not a lot of authors whose works I have really studied a lot. I also read the Dilbert comic strip every day. I must experience humor at least once every 24 hours.
KYRIAN: What is your biggest regret and why?
PAUL: I suppose there are many things I wished I had done differently in life. But if I really go back and study those poor decisions, I recall the circumstances that led up to them and the lessons I learned from them. Doing that gives me a better understanding of how I can help people going through similar circumstances make better choices than I did. Sometimes, even when you make the best decision possible, people can get hurt; that can’t be helped. It’s when you make a poor decision, and someone gets hurt because of it, that really stings.
KYRIAN: What is your greatest fear?
PAUL: That I haven’t made it clear enough to my children what I stand for. I’ve tried to let actions speak louder than words. But sometimes, you don’t run into situations where your children will see you model what is in your heart. There are times we need to tell them what we believe in, how we feel about certain things. They will at some point make up their own minds about all that surrounds them, but I think they need to know where their parents stand on a lot of issues, especially as they get older.
KYRIAN: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
PAUL: Of all the places I have never been that I want to see, Hawaii tops the list. I love visiting my home state of Wisconsin, and anywhere my wife is works, too.
KYRIAN: Who are your heroes in life?
PAUL: My father, Ray Hoffman, has been someone whose unstated goal seems to have been “be a better person today than you were yesterday.” I can’t think of a better compliment to pay anyone than this. A former boss of mine, Bill Windler, taught me a lot about respecting everyone around me as well as several other life lessons. I also respect those who give of themselves and expect nothing in return.
KYRIAN: Tell me about your proudest achievement and why it was so gratifying?
PAUL: I am never prouder than when my children make good choices, put their all into accomplishing something worthwhile and are honest about their mistakes. I like to think I have had at least a little to do with them demonstrating those qualities, for the most part (nobody is perfect). A lot of people have told me that I’ve been a good father, although I’m fairly hard on myself and see a lot of instances where I could have done better. To have people tell you how kind, respectful and well-behaved your children are … there is no better“achievement” in the world.
Click here to read Paul’s personal story of abuse and recovery.
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