By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer
Hunter Hodge remembers his grandfather, James Hodge, as a man who was so devoted to his grandchildren he gently tolerated even their orneriest moments.
Hodge, who died Friday at the age of 69, had three sons — Jack, John and Jim, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“He loved his grandchildren,” said Hunter, 17. “I can remember a time when I was little, and I always sat on his lap and messed up his hair. It didn’t matter if he just got home from work or was going to an important dinner. He never cared. All that mattered was he had his grandchildren with him. He was a good man.”
He was also a respected businessman and giving community member, said Mark Ford, general manager of James Hodge Ford in Muskogee and close family friend.
“He was diagnosed with cancer back in February, and was actually responding to treatment really well,” Ford said.
But Hodge was injured in a collision July 5 in Okmulgee County.
“... He never really recovered from the accident,” Ford said.
Hodge was born in Colbert on Dec. 21, 1942. He grew up a peanut farmer around Idabel and owned a service station there.
“He started selling cars in Idabel in 1964,” Ford said. “In fact, the first car he ever sold was a 1964 Mustang.”
Hodge went on to purchase his first dealership in Idabel in 1970, then purchased the Ford dealership in Muskogee in 1989.
Today, there are eight James Hodge dealerships, three in Muskogee — James Hodge Hyundai, James Hodge Ford and Toyota of Muskogee.
Ford said Hodge’s employees remember him as a fantastic employer who made it a point to know every one of them no matter how big his businesses grew.
In Muskogee there were about 150 employees, Ford said.
“He made sure he said hi to every employee and shook every employee’s hand every time he came in,” Ford said. “He knew everybody by their first name and what they did at the store — every one of them. He just took the time to know his employees, and not everybody is like that.”
Hodge also was known as a giving person in his hometown of Idabel, where he was a member of the First United Methodist Church.
“He had a huge, probably a four- or five-acre garden that he raised every year with the only purpose of putting it all on a flatbed trailer every year,” Ford said. “And he would take it through town and donate it all over town to the people that needed it — he was just a very, very giving man.”
Services will be 2:00 p.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Idabel. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the White Family Funeral Home, 3 N.E. Third St., Idabel.
Graveside services will be 2:00 p.m. Wednesday at the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Colbert.
Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.