Our Tribute to Eleanor Hodgkins
By David and Beth Duddles
I first met Eleanor Hodgkins and her husband, Norm (Royce), at Ridgeview Junior High in Napa in my counseling office. They had just moved to Napa and wanted to get their son, Chris, enrolled in our school. I realized from the onset that this was an unusual family. I remember giving them the grand tour of the campus and answering a lot of their questions. Eleanor was so vivacious and engaging. "What electives are available? What sports do you have?" I could tell by her questions and demeanor that she wanted nothing but the best for her son's education. There was an inner glow that seemed to emanate from her eyes as she talked. Inwardly I wished that every student could have a mom like her. Many parents never even bothered to show up for parent conferences.
Over the next ten years we saw each other often at school functions. Since the three Duddles kids were about the same age as the Hodgkins kids, we had much in common. I can still see Eleanor and Norm at all the basketball games where Craig was a leading player. They cheered on each of their children in every aspect of their education. Each of them grew into outstanding students and developed their talents in drama, music, sports and leadership, not only in junior high but in high school as well. Eleanor was the chief cheerleader all the way through and indeed the Hodgkins family left its mark on Napa.
Years later, as our friendship continued, they both came to our home for a Bible study in the book of Galatians. This was led by Dr. Greg Beach, a close friend of ours. Some of our next door neighbors attended as well. The study was very relaxed and friendly. Eleanor asked very thought-provoking questions. After the study we always had time to catch up on family news.
We were thrilled when we first moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to learn that Chris and his family lived only an hour away in Greensboro. We were so pleased to renew our acquaintance and meet his dear wife, Hope, and their three wonderful children. Together with our daughter, Gayle, and her family, we had more Duddles/Hodgkins get-togethers. When Eleanor and Norm came from California to visit Chris and family, we were invited as well. One memorable event was the basketball game with UNC and Illinois in the final playoffs in 2005. What fun to cheer for UNC together! Of course they won the national championship that year!
Our last and most memorable visit was in downtown Napa at Gilwood's Restaurant in August 2005. We could see that Eleanor's health was failing, but her spirit was as strong as ever. As usual much of our conversation centered around our children. Eleanor spoke with joy and pride about each one and especially about her grandchildren. Her love and concern was evident in her eyes just as it was in our first meeting at Ridgeview Junior High School in 1971.