The Stars That Shine Upon Us
When Sally Logan, chairman of this year’s North Carolina Writers Conference, contacted me in early July, it was to ask if I would do a remembrance for Ed and Betty Hodges at the upcoming conference.
Even as I was reading her note, I was saying to myself, “I can’t.” It had been just six months since Ed passed away and less than three since I sat for the second time in St. Philips’s Episcopal Church in Durham, this time for Betty’s memorial service.
I had hoped Sally would understand. But then Marsha Warren wrote to say what I already knew — that I was the person to do it. After all, I was from Durham and had known them more years than I could count.
They were definitely a twosome. It was impossible to mention Ed Hodges or Betty Hodges without mentioning the other. They shared a total of 96 years in the newspaper business and were married just short of 55 years.
Without question, they had remarkable careers, first with the Durham Morning Herald and later The Herald-Sun: Ed was a foreign correspondent, reporter and columnist, and Betty started out in the Woman’s Department or “society section” of the paper. That was at a time when women in the newsroom did not cover the news beat. And she was relegated to covering garden parties, weddings and fashion shows.
But times changed and she went on to become a journalist in her own right and was renowned for her book reviews. At the time of her death, she had completed more than 129 personal journals. She attributed that to the fact that she had a large collection of floating “dust balls” and a basket filled with unironed laundry.
We roomed together at these conferences for a number of years, including two years ago in Hickory. Betty had just finished another round of chemotherapy and had written to say she was going to wear a fedora if her hair didn’t grow out again. It did, requiring just a little mousse and back-combing to pass for a slightly sparse but stylish shag cut. And, on Saturday morning, I found myself making favorable comparisons.
Certainly not going unnoticed was an extremely handsome man sitting on my left. He had ripened well and his good looks were enhanced by the somewhat questionable fact that he had a head full of solid black hair.
I should have known he had also caught Betty’s eye. Even so, I was startled when she leaned across my lap with pen and pad in hand to ask (in her reporter’s voice) if he dyed his hair.
Did Ed and Betty have a perfect marriage? That’s best appraised by a story Ed loved to tell. He was in Russia with the presidential party and had spent a lengthy evening in the company of a distinguished group of diplomats. When he called Betty to tell her about the fine food and even finer vodka, she was sitting in the kitchen typing away on her old manual typewriter.
Ed was in his best form elaborating on the events of the trip and embellishing the moon-bathed scene of the square from his balcony. When he finally had to stop long enough to draw a deep breath, Betty said calmly, “Go to hell,” and put the receiver on the hook.
When Betty passed away, a guest columnist for The Durham News wrote that if you told someone you worked for the Durham Morning Herald, the first question was, “Do you know Betty (or Ed) Hodges?” And when you said “Yes” they acted like you had just kissed the pope’s ring or that you grew up next door to Andy Griffith.
I don’t know if they were “Ozzie and Harriet” or “The Honeymooners.” But they were the celebrities, the famous stars who lived on Hollywood Street in Durham. And they will always be among the stars that shine down upon us.
Lois Holt is a Southern Pines writer. Contact her at email@example.com.
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