Richard L. "Choo Choo" Hodge, a former Fresno haberdashery owner, is remembered as someone who bled the purple of Fresno High and looked out for his customers.
Mr. Hodge died Nov. 20 in Palm Desert. He was 82. A memorial service is scheduled Dec. 18 at Pardini's Catering and Banquets in Fresno.
The Fresno native graduated in 1949 from Fresno High, where he got his nickname, "Choo Choo." Mr. Hodge was a "yell leader" during high school and as an active member of the Fresno High Alumni Association, leading fellow alums in cheers and chants.
The nickname also came from Mr. Hodge's birth name, Choohagian.
Mr. Hodge earned varsity letters in three sports while at Fresno High, and sports continued to play an important role in his life after graduation. His daughter, Paige Swaim, said he was offered a spot in minor league baseball but turned it down to work with his father.
The shop was renamed Hodge & Sons Gentlemen's Apparel. Mr. Hodge and his brother, Karney, ran the store after their father died, and eventually he ran it by himself until he retired.
Swaim said her father knew his clientele well and catered to his customers. He always knew their previous purchases and bought products with his customers in mind.
"It was a small shop, but it had a consistent clientele who returned again and again," she said.
Harry Sussman, Mr. Hodge's longtime neighbor on Terrace Avenue, said it was no surprise to find Mr. Hodge playing catch with his daughters, Paige and Tracy on a typical afternoon. Even before Mr. Hodge and his wife, Patty, moved to Palm Desert, Sussman said Mr. Hodge played catch on the same lawn with his grandsons.
Sussman chuckled as he remembered Mr. Hodge's competitive spirit. Mr. Hodge always participated in the neighborhood golf tournament, and always made sure he was in a position to win it, Sussman said.
"When you think of a really good friend and neighbor, he was at the top of the list. He epitomized that," Sussman said.
Pat MonPere, owner of Patrick James in Fresno and a longtime friend, said Mr. Hodge's positive nature drew people to him.
"He had a sincere, winning personality. He won a person over quickly," MonPere said. "He was one of the most positive people I've ever known."
Mr. Hodge was committed to the Fresno community. He served on the juvenile justice commission, was a member of the Fresno Community Theatre and the Lions Club and belonged to Fresno's 20/30 club with his wife.
Mr. Hodge and his wife moved to Palm Desert about nine years ago after Hodge & Sons closed.
Richard L. Hodge
Occupation: Owner, Hodge & Sons Gentlemen’s Apparel
Born: April 26, 1931
Died: Nov. 20, 2013
Survivors: Wife Patricia Hodge, daughter Paige Swaim, two grandsons.
Memorial service: Noon, Dec. 18, Pardini’s Catering and Banquets, 2257 W. Shaw Ave., Fresno
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