William Hodges, 2011 Citizen of the Year

william hodges

Bill Hodges was born in Sherburne on Reynolds Road, west of Sherburne on February 25, 1938, at the home of Edsall Reynolds, his grandfather. His parents were Donald K Hodges and Anna Irene Reynolds, who lived in Ogdensburg at the time. As a young man Bill also lived in Lyons,Tupper Lake and Syracuse before he came to Sherburne when his father bought the R.P. Kutschbach store in the Anna Hathaway block on South Main Street on April 1, 1948, where Record’s IGA and the Big M were later located.

During his high school years at Sherburne, Bill played the coronet in the band, and marched in the Pageant of Bands every year. This led to his marching each year in the Alumni Band. He was also in the Boy Scouts. He signed up for the Army Reserves when he was a Senior and joined the Army after graduation in October 1956. After serving in the Army for two years, he attended Broome Tech and Morrisville College to further his education in Electrical Engineering. When he returned home he joined the Sherburne Sentinels’ Drill Team, sponsored by the Sherburne American Legion. Bill reminisced to us in his interview for this COTY award: “This group was very competitive and traveled to Denver and Miami, among other locations, but they lost to the Little Bills of Chicago 96.90 to 96.85—a .05 point loss, thanks to a New York judge—the Chicago Legion Post had more members than Sherburne, but everyone from Chicago agreed that we did better and should have won. But that loss prevented us from performing at the Orange Bowl in 1961.”

Bill worked many years in Binghamton for New York State Electric and Gas, where he met his wife, Jo Richardson and they were married in 1964. In 1965 Bill was asked if he would return to Sherburne to join his father in his store. The Hodges’ Department Store in the large East Main Street block was in need of more space, and had purchased the former Bramer’s Electric, to the east.

In the 1970’s people were needed to learn first aid and CPR and it was discussed at a Rotary meeting that the fire department was looking for volunteers, so Bill joined the fire department and first aid squad. He needed training in the procedures of first aid from the Red Cross. This was before the emergency medical technician came into the picture. Bill took the second class offered and received his Emergency Ambulance Attendant card in January 1970. This class was about 90 hours where nowadays it requires much more time to complete. Bill’s wife Jo was a member of the Fire Department Auxiliary. After 25 years of service they both retired from the Fire Department. Bill still worked for eight years with the squad, helping the residents of this area in their time of need.

Ask Bill about business at the Hodges’ store and he can tell you great stories. One such story follows about the devastating fire on December 10, 1974: “There was an advertising figure in the way of a large red goose, which when touched in a specific way, laid a golden egg, for the entertainment of the children purchasing red goose shoes. There were many old showcases and other old advertising items, which were all lost in the fire.

Hodges’ Store had their Christmas display set up in the show windows at the time of the fire. Bill had borrowed an old-fashioned cobblers bench from his wife, Josie’s parents for the display, with the remark made, “Don’t let anything happen to that cobblers bench, as it is an antique”. It had been made by Josie’s great, great grandfather. Someone knew the history of this bench and had the foresight to remove it to a safe location as soon as the store was opened and items were hastily removed at the time of the fire. People of the community pitched in and removed as much of the contents of all the businesses involved as they could to the lawn of the Congregational/UCC church. There were a few unscrupulous, dishonest people, who took advantage of the situation and removed items for themselves. It is always cases like this when people take advantage of someone else’s disaster to line their own pockets.

The store received only water and smoke damage to the first floor, thanks to a firewall separating their store fromAlice’s Restaurant. The second floor had more damage from the roof above, where the fire had broken through. Their facility covered two store fronts and was structurally separate from the other three. An agreement was made with the insurance company to resume operations on a limited basis on December 16, only six days after the fire, trying to recoup some of the Christmas sales loss. All of their merchandise that was sellable was moved to the Episcopal Parish House.

Bill and his father reopened the store after the fire, with Bill taking over the business until it was sold in 1985. Bill also worked at Colgate inHamiltonfor Buildings and Grounds from 1984 until he retired in 2000. Bill has been a Vestryman at the Christ Episcopal Church for years—following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Edsall Reynolds, who held that position for 50 years.

When the Oxford Lion’s club came to Sherburne to start a new Lion’s Club here, being connected with the store, Bill was recruited to join and became the Charter Treasurer. One of their first projects was to help raise money to build the first pavilion with a BBQ pit atPaddlefordParkby the swimming pool.

Bill was also active as a Little League Coach, a service which is important with our young boys to get them on the right track. Bill has been a member of the Sherburne American Legion Post for 30 years holding most all of the major positions as Chaplin and the House Chairman, who was responsible for the upkeep of the building and grounds. Bill has been a constant presence at Bingo, and Fish Fry’s—anything that the American legion is responsible—he is there.


Previous Peggy O’Connor, 2010 Citizen of the Year

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