In the late-1990s, Nadine Kofman took on an effort to place historical plaques on iconic State College buildings. And at some point over her long career and public life, she became a local icon herself, her friends said.
Kofman, a former Centre Daily Times reporter, local historian and longtime columnist for various publications including Town & Gown, died Saturday at 75. Her husband was former State College Mayor Bill Welch, who died in 2009.
For the Rev. Thomazine “Timmy” Shanahan, who grew up with Kofman in State College, her friend’s iconic status was reaffirmed Saturday morning as she took a taxi to the grocery store.
“The cab driver said that he considered Nadine an icon in State College, that everybody knew her, and that’s true,” Shanahan said.
Kofman was a graduate of State College Area High School and Penn State. She worked as a reporter at the Pennsylvania Mirror and the CDT, and R. Thomas Berner worked with her in both newsrooms, starting in 1967.
“I think of her as a yeoman,” Berner said. “She covered everything and did everything that was given to her to do.”
Her interest in State College history was evident even at that time, Berner said. Charlie DuBois, who also worked with Kofman at the CDT, said her interest in the local community served her well as a reporter.
“Having grown up in the community, she really had a sense for things in town and in Centre County,” DuBois said.
Kofman’s daughter, Justine Mastin, thinks her mother’s lifelong passion for the community stems from her childhood and upbringing.
“Her parents were small business owners and her mother was first generation in this country,” Mastin said. “I think she felt a ... responsibility to this place, to her home.”
Kofman, who was known for her quick wit and sense of humor, was also a member of Young Writers of America — along with Shanahan, Berner and DuBois — the local group that created the Bill Welch Award for Excellence in Journalism for high school students. A lover of theater and the arts, Kofman was involved from the beginning in the effort to reopen The State Theatre in downtown State College, according to Mike Desmond, a member of the founding board.
“(Kofman and Welch) were strong advocates and they helped bring it to many people in the community’s attention,” Desmond said. “With her help, we had a robust turnout for our first forum.”
Kofman was a board member from 2010-16, where she “was a strong voice for telling The State Theatre’s story in the community,” Desmond said. She also volunteered as an usher and would continue to be an avid patron.
She was a “historian at heart,” Shanahan said, and in 1999, Kofman was involved in an effort to preserve State College’s history through historical marker plaques and building tours.
“She was a tireless recorder of local history, that was a main passion of hers,” Mastin said.
After Welch’s death, Kofman moved to Pleasant Gap, but Shanahan said the move never affected her connection to the State College community. Though it became more challenging to get there — Kofman had stopped driving and would take buses or cabs, Shanahan said — Kofman was a familiar face at many local events and remained close to her friends.
“I think the thing that I’ve admired about her most, among the many things, is in these recent years it’s been her will and her strength to live her life to the fullest that could she could have,” DuBois said. “Despite her health issues and so forth, she kept at her writing and remained as active as she could.”
Kofman was also passionate about humanitarian efforts and was particularly focused on Native American causes in her later life, Mastin said.
She is survived by Mastin and her husband, Elijah Mastin, and her stepdaughters Jennifer Theiss and her husband Mark Theiss and Jessica Welch and former partner Dana Guyer, and two granddaughters, Clarissa and Linden Theiss.
A public service will be held at 1:30 p.m. April 7 at Koch Funeral Home, followed by a private gravesite service. A public celebration of her life will be held at The State Theatre on April 9, with cocktail hour from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and a movie screening of Kofman’s choice at 7 p.m.
Memorial contributions can be sent to The State Theatre or Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania.