Opinion Columns & Blogs

Aunt Ginny and General Hodges

She was born on May 1, 1918, in Hollywood, California, and until she left us one day last week (Sunday, May 29), she was one of the spunkiest, most interesting, attractive people you could’ve ever met. And, yes, at 98 she was still that way.

Ask her about Perry’s Autumn Terrace, the assisted living facility where she was living, and she’d say: “Its fine, the food is good, the folks are nice — it’s my home.”

What about a little political talk? And those that knew Ginny would expect from this staunch Republican a somewhat biased response. You’d get it. Not surprising since she got it honest. Her father, who came to Perry in the early 1900s, was probably Houston County’s first Republican. But, back to her possible response. “I don’t like Trump, but I’m not for Clinton. I don’t like Trump, but I’m not going to vote for Clinton.” Get it? She was a staunch Republican from way back. Had she lived and voted in the 2016 presidential election, I’d bet she would have “held her nose” and voted for Trump.

She loved to read. Her room was full of books that she had read or that she was reading. And, magazines, including The Week and of course, Macon’s The Telegraph and the Houston Home Journal. Ever been to an assisted living facility room that was cluttered with many read books, newspapers and magazines? Probably not.

Another surprise: Hanging on Ginny’s room wall was an ink drawn collage of Gen. Courtney Hicks Hodges highlighting Hodges’ boyhood in Perry, his service in World War I and his Army commands in World War II, including a drawing of Hodges with Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and Gen. George Patton. Why is this in Ginny’s room? Let me explain.

Courtney Hicks Hodges was born in Perry and spent part of his boyhood here hunting rabbits and swimming in Big Indian Creek with his best friend, Sam Nunn Sr. They say that Courtney was a very good shot. Did that portend things to come? Probably.

Virginia Gray Mason married Thomas Mason, son of Tommy Mason and Edna Hodges Mason, who was Gen. Hodges’ sister. In other words, Ginny’s Thomas was Courtney Hodges’ nephew. There were three Mason nephews, including Thomas, Courtney and Edward. Thomas, who was married to Ginny for 70 years, is now deceased, but his other two brothers, Courtney and Edward, live in Perry.

Ginny, a niece by law of Gen. Hodges, was ready, as requested, to tell you about his military career: that he served in WWI; that he was the commanding general of the Third Army in 1943; that on D-Day, June 6, 1944, Gen. Hodges landed at Normandy; that on August 1, 1944, he assumed command of the First Army which spearheaded the Allied drive through Europe; and that “Uncle Courtney” was on the battleship Missouri and watched the Japanese surrender.

Yes, at 98, Ginny would talk to you about books she was reading or local politics, including how proud she was of the election of Larry Walker III to the state Senate or about what was in The Telegraph or what book she had just finished reading. And, probably with the greatest pleasure would explain to you everything about the Gen. Hodges’ collage hanging on her room wall.

And, then, my mother, age 96, and mother and Ginny’s other sister, Betty Gray Talton, age 86, would come in and Ginny, Mother and Betty, would talk about what their Daddy and Mother (Charles and Hazel Nichols Gray) told them they did when Grandbuddy (their Daddy) was a cameraman at Universal Studios in Hollywood in the early 1900s, or how it was homesteading in Arizona when Poncho Villa was raiding across the border or about their house on Hay Road or Ball Street, when they were young girls in Perry.

And, now, Ginny is gone, and so it’s up to Mother and Betty to remember and tell. And, so, as Monday, May 30, 2016, Memorial Day turns to memory, and my inadequate “Aunt Ginny effort” ends, I think, how appropriate. Courtney Hodges, a great general and a great American. Ginny Mason, a great aunt, a great sister, wife, mother, grandmother, niece, friend and a great American. They both exemplified what is good and noble about our country. May we never forget and continue to have these important and meaningful memories on Memorial Day. It makes us know what we are and why we are and why it matters.

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com.