GHD-1987

Philip G. Hodge, Jr.
2962 West River Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55406

GROUNDHOG DAY, 1987

Dear Friends-and-relations,

How are you at syllogisms? State if the following is true or false: IF Samuel Symonds hadn’t been so lusty or IF Benjamin Treadway hadn’t been so rich or IF Captain Jabez Puffer’s ship had gone down, THEN Bill Kelly’s middle name wouldn’t be Hodge. If the answer doesn’t pop into your mind, read on; I’ll scatter a few clues as I go.

Most of this letter will be about my genealogic relatives. Let’s start two rungs down with my granddaughters, April and Miriam who are, of course, the most wonderful 9 and 6 year-old girls west of the Pacific coast. We had a great visit with them and their parents Sue and David last December, but the real news this year is the camping trip Sue and April and I took just a couple of weeks ago.

It was brief – only two days and a night – but it was perfect in many dimensions. I had the pure physical joy of sleeping under the cold desert stars and hiking in the desert warmth. I had the joy of being part of my granddaughter’s first camping experience and seeing how she shared my enthusiasm for all parts of it. I had the joy of being there as my daughter introduced her daughter to camping and so reliving the happy time with I introduced her to it those many years ago. And there was the joy of us three first-borns being together in an ideal physical environment with no distractions from sibling or spouse – truly the antithesis of the generation gap.

It was a particularly good time to feel this closeness to the generations that follow me, because looking at the rung above me, there is a sudden emptiness.  On January 4th of this year my mother died in her sleep after a very brief illness.  It is, of course, a shock to find that I have become the oldest living member of my family, but I can only feel grateful that her passing was as easy as it was.  She had been rapidly losing touch with reality the last two years.  When I last saw her on Thanksgiving Day she knew I was someone nice, but didn’t remember just who.  And now, after 93 years of a happy and productive life, she remembers nothing.

Now is a time to think, not of the sweet confused old lady of the last few years, but of the wonderful Mother who meant so much to me for the six decades before then.  There are countless memories I’d like to share to show you the kind of person she was – – let me pick just two.

One of the most difficult periods in my mother’s life was the early part of World War II.  I was away at Antioch college and was seriously considering registering for the draft as a Conscientious Objector, even if it meant going to jail.  My father saw the significance of Nazi Germany more than most people in this country and was trying to figure how he could best play a meaningful part in the war he considered inevitable.  He and I found it difficult or impossible to talk about our differences, but somehow my mother managed to keep the family together.  She could listen to and understand my reasoning while, at the same time, agreeing with my father’s assessment of the situation.  I’m sure that my being able to discuss my viewpoint with her, rather than feel I had to defend it, had an influence on my final decision to join the Merchant Marine where I was part of the war effort but didn’t have to carry a gun.

I have always felt close to my Mother.  As I became an adult, responsible for making my own decisions, I wanted to share my successes with her.  I wish I had saved her responses to my first published paper, my first promotion, my first book.  Somehow she managed to find exactly the right words to tell me how pleased and proud she was without falling into the trap on either side: the one where you read between the lines,  “There were so many things wrong with you as a child that I’m really surprised you did so well,” and the other which you interpret as, “Since you’re my child, you’re obviously wonderful and this honor is only to be expected.”

As I relive my many memories, I realize that I was wrong to say, “Now is a time to think not of the sweet confused old lady of the last few years . . .”  For during the 10 years since my father died, I have had an opportunity to repay in some small way the love with which she cherished me.  From being a shoulder to lean on, to giving advice, to making decisions for her, my sister and I made the gradual transition to having to take complete legal charge.  We, her children, had become the parents; she, the parent, had become the child.  The experience was painful at times, but it has knit us closer together.  Thus, even in her final years my mother was giving something to her family.  Amen.

Let’s return to the generation on the other side of me and talk about my youngest daughter, Lisa. Her big news of this year–or this decade. for that matter–is her marriage in California on June 29 to William Gerard Kelly. We’ve known Bill for several years and liked him more every time we saw him; and Lisa apparently felt the same way. The four of us planned the wedding over the span of almost a year. So different from our own marriage 44 years ago which went from decision to “I do” in less than two weeks. But everything came off without a hitch. It was an outdoor Civil ceremony in a Japanese garden beneath sunny skies. Our children, grandchildren, and brothers were there; Bill’s parents and brother and other assorted relatives came from Massachusetts; the hundred or so other guests covered the range from six decades to six months. The ceremony was a beautiful compromise between the traditional and the new. They were their own people–no one “gave away” the bride–but Bill’s parents both accompanied him down the aisle while Thea and I followed with Lisa between us. They settled the name question by each keeping their own first name, taking “Kelly” as a last name and putting “Hodge” in between. The ceremony was tasteful and sincere and ended with the near-simultaneous clicks of 9 cameras to record for posterity the first kiss of the new wife and husband. Afterwards the 150 guests drove a few miles to the reception hall for an ample buffet supper with plenty of wine, beer, and sparkling water in addition to the requisite champagne. Toasts were drunk, dances were danced to a 3-piece orchestra, pictures were snapped, and a good time was had by all.

A giant step up the genealogic ladder brings us to Samuel Symonds who was born in Great Yeldham, Essex, England in 1595 and came to Massachusetts in 1637. In the course of his 83 years he had three wives. His sixteenth and last child, born in 1648, was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Priscilla Symonds Baker.

Reverse the giant step to return to Lisa’s generation: Last March our son Philip finished work for his Master of Science in Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota and moved to his new home in Beaver, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh. He has gone into business for himself as HABCO. Apparently he is being tremendously successful and is having to learn to say “no” or be totally swamped with jobs that he loves doing. Needless to say we miss not having him in Minneapolis, but we still keep in touch by phone and by visiting him in such places as California (Lisa’s wedding), Wisconsin (at my sister Mary’s for Thanksgiving), Beaver, and Minneapolis. There are many women in his life, not the least of whom is the Statue of Liberty — if you want proof see the pictures on pages 392 and 394 of the December 20 & 27, 1986 issue of Science News.

In 1734 (I do like to jump around in time) Benjamin Treadway paid a tribe of Indians $150 to ransom his nineteen-year-old daughter Hannah who had been held captive for 18 months. Four years later she married sea-Captain Jabez Puffer. Their fourth child was my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Rebecca Puffer Gibson. And that’s all the clues I’ll give you to the syllogism–you have from now to the Appendix before I give you the answer. Meanwhile, I’ll bring you up to date on rung zero of our genealogic ladder.

Last September Thea (with my strong concurrence) decided that five years was enough for the stress, strain, and excitement of being a “titan of industry”, so she resigned her position as Manager of the Compilers and Products Department in the Software Division of Cray Research. On January 15 she turned in her badge at Cray to return to the ivied halls of academe as a director of long-range planning in the Dept. of Computer Science at the University of Minnesota. Lest this sounds like out-of-the-frying-pan, I hasten to state that hers is a newly created part-time position, so she will have an opportunity to do some of the other things she has been postponing for lo, these many years.

Spurred on by her example, I (with her strong concurrence) applied for phased retirement in my position as Professor of Mechanics at the University of Minnesota. Starting next Fall I will be teaching only ⅔ of the normal teaching load. It will be interesting to see how these changes will affect our lives.

One thing our new life style should afford us more time for is our latest joint hobby which (in case you haven’t guessed) is genealogy. We had a ball on our 10-day vacation in England last summer, seeing the church at Little Waldingfield where there is a brass of my (great-)13 grandfather Robert Appleton who died in 1526; visiting County Record Offices and poring over birth, marriage, and death records back to the 16th century; discovering the British library (where Thea’s Cray connection was sufficient for a two-week pass, but my U of Minn credentials rated a 5-year renewable membership card) and losing ourselves in family genealogies and county histories. Back home we’ve joined the Minnesota Genealogical Society, spent hours at the LDS library, learned the intricacies of the IGI, and …. [whoa, there, let’s stop this runaway hobby horse before somebody gets hurt]. I could easily tell you far more than you wish to know, but it’s all such fun, collecting names, dates, and places, and looking for heroes and villains among my ancestors. For those of you who are both “relations” and “friends” I’ve included an appendix with a little more detail. If any of you who are only in the latter category want more, just ask and it shall be given.

May the view from your rung on your own genealogical ladder be one of intriguing ancestors and wonderful descendants,

This wish was followed by personal notes and signature, and at the bottom of the page, upside down:
Answer to syllogism:
If any of the conditions had been false, I would have been missing an ancestor and hence neither I nor my daughter Lisa would have existed and Bill would have had to make other arrangements for his middle name. I could also note that this letter including the syllogism would not exist (no cheers please), hence, by its very existence the syllogism is true!

Dear Siblings, Children, Nieces, and Nephews,

Since all of my ancestors are your ancestors, I thought you might like a little more detail about our genealogical researches. Also, I have a selfish motivation, since you may well know something I don’t, in which case I hope you’ll share it. On the reverse side of this page is a “Four-Generation Genealogical Chart”, starting with me, but it could equally well be my brother or sister since we all have the same ancestors. As you see, I’ve got this chart almost completely filled in, but, of course, each of the 8 names at the right can start a new chart and those would have lots of blanks. I got off to a great start with the “Gibson” book which Frances Haskell loaned us many years ago. That led back to my (great-)8 grandfather John Gibson who died in Cambridge, MA in 1694. Then I found a book by Orlando J. Hodge with lots of that line back to (great-)6 grandfather Thomas Hodge who was born in Oxford, England in 1583.

Both books have a good number of spouse ancestors also, such as the Appleton line mentioned in my letter. According to the book, my (great-)10 grandfather Samuel Appleton was born in Little Wallingford, Suffolk County, England in 1586. But no gazeteer gave a Little Wallingford in Suffolk, so I felt a real thrill of accomplishment when I found out on my own that he was born in Little Waldingfield. Then I found the names of his parents (Thomas Appleton and Mary Isaacke), all of his grandparents, and more back to my (great-)15 grandparents John Appleton and Margaret Welling who died in 1481 and 1468, respectively. As if that weren’t enough, my daughter Lisa found a book by Walter Goodwin Davis called the “Ancestry of Mary Isaac” which I haven’t had a chance to digest yet, but which includes my (great-)22 grandfather Hugh de Haut back in the eleventh or tenth century.

Well, you get the idea. As of now I’ve found about 300 ancestors. Some are just names (some of the women just first names), for others I have birth, marriage, and/or death dates and places, and for a few I have extra tidbits such as who they sued or were sued by. lf you’d like more detail, let me know what your interests are. And, as I said before, if you have any information at all about any of our common ancestors, I sure would like to know about it.


If you can’t read the above chart, click here.

APPENDIX

IS THERE LIFE AFTER RUNNING?

The answer, of course, is YES. The rest of the world is still running, but I’m having a great time walking with them. For example:

June — A 10K race in Taylors Falls. Actually finished ahead of a couple of runners. Turns out there was only one other 60 year old in the race, so I got a second-place gift certificate. Have a nice souvenir beer glass to show for it.

July — A 14 mile run in Cold Spring. The last runner was out of sight ahead of me, but the tail police car was cheering me on. Half a mile from the end a couple of runners jogged back and escorted me over the finish line. And a week later in the mail I got a special plaque entitled “True Grit Award.”

April through September — White Bear Grand Prix series. By walking every one of the six races held last summer I got a third-place ribbon for the series as a whole.

October — Twin Cities Marathon. That’s the biggie. Got written up in the paper the week before. That never happened to me as a runner. Near the end of the race an elderly spectator came into the road, touched my hand and said in a thick Norwegian accent, “Ja, I see your picture in the paper. You’re doing good.” And I was. In the last five miles of the race I passed more than a hundred people who’d started out running. Crossed the finish line 11 minutes faster than last year.

This article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune was included as the last page of my appendix for this year’s letter. – ph