DAYTON — Hundreds of friends, family and community members gathered Saturday at Dayton High School to remember Don Hodgson, a retired teacher and coach who died Feb. 2.
Rather than holding a more somber event, Hodgson’s son Drew opted to organize a pep rally in honor of his father. The Dayton High School pep band played, and several of Don Hodgson’s co-workers and friends shared stories of their time together.
Rob Moore, a Dayton High School teacher who taught with Hodgson for many years, said he remembered his friend telling him, “When I go, I want people to get together, share a few hugs, share a few laughs, and get on with it.”
Many laughs were shared, as friends took turns recalling practical jokes Hodgson played on them.
Tony Henderson, who taught with Hodgson, spoke about a camping trip where Hodgson convinced another friend to dress up as Bigfoot to scare him. Henderson described hearing the “unmistakable giggle of Don Hodgson” once he realized he had been set up.
Other friends shared similar stories.
“If you knew Don, you knew he could laugh without making any noise,” said Gordon Gerlitz, who taught computers with Hodgson.
Each person who spoke talked about Hodgson’s love for community service and his willingness to help friends out. Many described how, when something needed to be done, Hodgson would always volunteer to help, whether it was coaching the basketball team or driving several hours to pick up friends whose car had broken down.
“That’s just what Don did,” said Moore.
After stories were told, Moore asked attendees to stand based on how they knew Hodgson. He started with people who taught with Hodgson, and went through Hodgson’s co-coaches, fellow firefighters and several other groups. By the time Moore called for Hodgson’s students, almost everyone in the gym was standing.
After the rally, attendees were encouraged to give a few hours of their time in service to their community. Drew Hodgson explained that his father volunteered with many groups and would have been happiest knowing the rally inspired other to do the same.
“It’s what my dad would have wanted,” said Drew Hodgson.
Many people stayed in the gym well after the rally ended, sharing hugs and stories.
“There’s a lot of love here today,” said Jim Clem, who taught and coached with Hodgson. “The family has touched a lot of lives in the community.”
Hogdson’s friends said his impacts on the community were significant, and many said they had been shaped by the time they spent with him.
“Like a lot of you, I’m a better man for having known Don,” said Henderson.