Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Mystery Resolved

You may remember my very first post about a hike at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in September, 2008. (Okay, of course you don't remember it - it was over four years ago, but you can visit it here.)

One of the things I talked about in that post was a simple yet beautiful memorial to Captain Richard McCormick Hodge.  I am posting the photograph again of this memorial to a young man who's untimely death came at the age of just 30:

For years now, I have wondered who Richard McCormick Hodge was, and how he died.  Was he a captain in the Army or Marine Corps (he was too young to be a Navy Captain)?  Was he a police or fire captain?  Did he die in the line of duty?  Was he a sea captain?  He obviously had parents, siblings, and friends who loved him deeply to erect this memorial in such a pacific and lovely spot - near a little fresh water pond and just a dozen or so meters from the shores of Back Bay.

Every time I hike this trail, I stop at this monument and reflect about Captain Hodge - sometimes for just a few seconds, other times for a few minutes.  I have taken family and friends there, and they are always moved.  I Googled his name, but at the time of his death in 1994, the commercial internet was in its infancy, and I found nothing.

Then yesterday, I got this email from a friend of his, and the mystery was resolved:

"Hello. I just read your blog from 2008 from Back Bay Wildlife Refuge about the memorial to our dear friend Richard Hodge! Saturday would have been his 49th birthday, so for kicks, we googled his name and your blog turned up. We grew up with Richard, aka Chard, in Fredericksburg VA and several of us moved to Virginia Beach in the mid eighties. Richard became a boat captain and spent time in VA Beach, Florida, Outer Banks, and the Virgin Islands. He died in 1994 in a boating accident. He loved the water so much, so we spread his ashes at sea off the coast of Back Bay and placed the memorial along the trails. It was so nice to read your post, as it is a special place for us too. Happy trails to you!"

I really appreciated this kind note, and I know that the next time that I hike this trail - and every time thereafter - I will think a little more than usual about this young man who died so tragically and so prematurely, even though it was doing something he loved.  I bet that he lived life to the fullest and had many adventures along the way.  But his run of adventures, his sunrises and sunsets, was done way too soon.

May you rest well in eternal peace, Captain Richard Hodge!


  1. How nice that he took the time to write and tell you about Captain Hodge.
    How sad that he died so young.

  2. Hi Karen - yes, even when someone dies doing what they love, it is still a very sad thing, and 30 is so young. It seems old when you are 12, but later, you realize how young it is. I would have missed so much of life had I died at that age. Art

  3. Art- That reminds me of when in 1996 you and I hiked the A.T. over Burnt Mt near Roanoke. The trail had been relocated a few yards to skirt a small monument where Audie Murphy died. He was the most decorated USA soldier in WWII, and died there in a small plane crash in 1971.... Please continue to write these great descriptive accounts, and consider putting some in a book for a wider audience.

  4. Hi Dick - I remember that day well. Thanks for the kind words. I'd love to write a book, but just can't seem to figure out how to make that happen. Art

  5. Sir,
    Thank you - and the Hodge family - kindly for the information on Captain Hodge. I have passed by Captain Hodge’s plaque many times and always wondered who he was.
    I actually call that particular trail "The Hodge's Pond Trail" and included a story by that name on my Back Bay site. (Under the Journal Pages tab.)
    Hope to see you on the trails!

  6. I saw it for the first time today. Thanks for posting the story. Not the first time I came upon a mystery.

  7. Just thought I'd add in here, this memorial is now a "Portal" in a game called Ingress. The game is a virtual capture the flag game played on mobile phones where various points of interest, or Portals are captured for either the Enightened or the Resistance factions.

    Had it not been for this game, I likely never would have found this memorial, nor this blog.

    Thanks for the story!

  8. That sounds like a pretty interesting game. Thanks for the comment.