Rena Hofheinz, a Lee County resident and longtime world traveler, donated 47 boxes of travel books and 57 boxes of assorted books, including novels to the Oakland Library. Hofheinz has been around the world three times, according to her daughter Ellen Bryant, and has visited a total of 85 countries. (Nov. 25, 2012)
LEESBURG -- At 87, Rena Hofheinz has been a traveler all her life. She says she has spent time in 85 countries and has visited every continent.
For more than 20 years, she's documented almost every mile with pictures, travel guides and more. When she returns home from a trip, she writes a personal, detailed account of her adventures for her own continued enjoyment and that of her friends and family.
"She's been around the world three times," said her daughter, Ellen Bryant. "She bought these travel books so she could read up on where she was going. When she got back she wrote about the trips and made photo albums so everyone could enjoy the sights, sounds -- even smells of the trips."
"People ask me which country I liked the best," Hofheinz said. "New Zealand. It has a rich and fascinating history, but the people there are down to earth. They all speak English, too, and that makes it easy."
With her advancing age and recently diagnosed cancer, Hofheinz decided it was time that the public might enjoy the travel books that have meant so much to her. Publix supermarket set aside a mountain of banana boxes to pack her treasure trove.
When Oakland Library in Lee County sent a transport truck for their new addition, they found 47 banana boxes filled with travel books -- plus 57 more packed with assorted religious books and novels of far-off lands. James Michener was a favorite.
According to Hofheinz, in her globe-hopping days, she seldom struck out solo, but preferred to trust her travels to a professional touring service, such as Vantage or Grand Circle.
"That way, you know how much money you'll need and the company has already checked out the best things to see and do," Hofheinz said.
Always the adventurous spirit, Hofheinz won a university degree at age 60 after putting three kids through college. She hopes her six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren will have her curiosity and exploration fervor.
"I started all this for them," Hofheinz said, "so they could select intelligently about where they might want to go."