There are no perfect men but there are good men. Occasionally, you can meet a great man. Men can be great because of their accomplishments, titles, wealth, artistry, or performance on the field. Our dad was a great man but not for these reasons.
Our dad was great because he died a deeply loved and highly respected man. Those who knew him the best loved and respected him the most. The more you got to know him and the story of his life, the more honor and respect you gained for him.
Miranda Hodges, our mom, knew him the best and loved and respected him the most. For a few weeks shy of 50 years, they did life together as loving husband and wife and they did it well. For them, a great marriage is not built on shifting emotions and self-serving motives but on deep commitment, shared core values, and serving one another. To Miranda, no one was smarter, more hard-working, or more deep-down good than her Bennie. She’d tell you he could fix anything. She showed him respect publicly and privately and he served her with joy. When she died in 2013, part of dad died. Today, both of them are whole and together.
His children and grandchildren know him well and love and respect him deeply. The force of his character, not his title as Dad or Granddad, cements his legacy in our hearts. Dad taught us the 10 Commandments from the Bible as well as his own commandments: don’t lie (because lying destroys relationships); work hard (because solid hustle outperforms smart and lazy); apologize when you are wrong (own it and let people know you are not proud of what you did); be brave (speak up and don’t run from conflict or an honorable fight). We remember him as a man of unshakeable conviction.
Our dad is great because of his soft side, too. We remember stories of his childhood, the rough-housing, lots of laughter, ridiculous levels of generosity, his ability to speak truth in love, long road trips, him cooking each one’s favorite food, helping with homework, and unhurried time he carved out of his schedule to build and reinforce deep bonds of affection and honor.
Our dad did not have an easy life. He is not a great man because greatness was handed to him. He was third of 11 children. His father was murdered when he was a teen by a family member. Dad was there when it happened. He lived the pain that often comes with trauma, poverty, and significant generational disfunction. He dropped out of school in 10th grade in part to work, hunt, and chop firewood to care for his younger siblings and mom. He moved to Chicago in the 1960’s to find work and sent half his paycheck home each week to his mother to help with her bills and the kids back home. He continued this well into his first several years of marriage, until his siblings got older.
Dad’s greatness is intricately connected to an event in a small Chicago church that our Aunt Gloria invited us to attend. It was there that dad found the Lord, or rather, the Lord found him. In 1975 dad responded to an offer to accept the forgiveness of sins made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus. He told us repeatedly of laying down the hate he carried at the man who killed his father. That night, kneeling to pray, dad asked the Lord to forgive his sins and take control of his life.
Beginning that night, our dad started a daily habit of reading the Bible and praying. This is not hyperbole; he did it daily. From cover to cover, over the years he read the whole Bible over a hundred times. He memorized Scriptures. He studied. He bought books and read them. He went to classes. He prayed and He served. His habits became His character. He became a true disciple following the Lord’s leading. He laid down the alcohol that had riddled his family for generations. He quit cursing, working to be quick to listen and slow to speak. He managed his income in order to meet his needs, save, and be incredibly generous to others and his church.
Our dad was great because he walked in the favor of the Lord. He lived the principle that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. He made plans, but the Lord directed his steps. The Lord directed him from Chicago to Cleveland, Tennessee in 1979. The Lord directed his work at M&M Mars. The Lord directed him toward friendships, generosity, and serving in various capacities at his church. The good hand of God was upon his life.
Our dad was great because he led our family in putting the Lord first. We were going to the Lord’s House on Sundays – no debate. He led us in reading Scripture each night before bed. He prayed for us after we recited the Lord’s Prayer each evening. He did not hesitate to make hard decisions for the good of our family. When we messed up, dad reminded us that God still had a plan for us.
Our dad was great because he was a servant. He put into practice the teaching of Jesus that personal greatness is a function of serving others well. Dad invested his life and ministry into several churches, loving, giving, teaching, cleaning, greeting, cooking, and encouraging his brothers and sisters in the Lord. He loved investing in young ministry couples and those studying for ministry. He loved to study and teach the Scriptures and taught Bible to literally hundreds of men, women, students, and children over the decades of faithful service. They knew him and respected him.
Our dad died on Saturday a couple of weeks after his 81st birthday. Bennie Stanford Hodges (October 3, 1941 – October 22, 2022) of Kegley, West Virginia took his last few restful breaths in the mid-morning hours at his home surrounded by family with his Bible and pictures of our mom beside him.
He leaves behind 4 children: Kim Bagley (married to Brian) of Cleveland, Tennessee; Ben Hodges (married to Jill) of Cincinnati, Ohio; Glenna Rogers (married to Matt) of Cleveland, Tennessee; and Greg Hodges (married to Amy) of Evergreen, Colorado. Proverbs 20:7 sums up our experience with dad, “The righteous lead honorable lives; blessed are their children after them.”
“Papa B” is what his grandchildren called him. Papa B and Grandma loved their grandkids and lavished them with attention, gifts, food, prayer, and fun. Papa B leaves behind 11 grandchildren to carry on his legacy: Abby and Sophia Bagley of Cleveland, Tennessee, Ellen Atout of Chattanooga (married to Omayya), Connor and Maxwell Hodges of Broomfield, Colorado, John Ryan Hodges of Cincinnati, Ohio, Zachary and Miranda Sawyer of Cleveland, Grayson (married to Laura), Preston and Ava Hodges of Evergreen, Colorado. Papa B had one great grandchild (Layla Atout) and two more expected in 2023.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 49 years Miranda Sloan of Matoaka, WV, a child (Paula Kay Hodges), his mother and father (Jacob and Zona Hodges of Princeton, WV), and several siblings (Tim of San Diego, Jim of Memphis, Sally of Princeton, WV). Surviving siblings are Garnett of Orlando, Sandra and Art of Princeton, Chuck and Doug of Chicago, Kyle of eastern Virginia, and Mark of San Diego.
A Celebration of Life Service is scheduled for Friday, November 11 at 7PM at the South Cleveland Church of God (our dad’s home church) in Cleveland, Tennessee. All family and friends are invited to join with our family in honoring the homecoming of a great man.
Bennie's children request that in lieu of flowers, gifts/donations/contributions be sent to "Bennie's Kids" to be split between:
South Cleveland Church of God, his home church:
Royal Family Camps: to help foster and at-risk kids have life-changing experiences.
and 4 Corners Church of Cincinnati, his son's church:
4C Kids Ministries: to partner with parents in the spiritual and emotional development of children.
Link is below.