Albert “Al” Eugene Hodgson went to be with his Lord and Savior on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 and is now rejoined with Frances. Al was born near Golden Gate, Wayne County, Illinois September 27, 1923 to John and Nellie (Brown) Hodgson. The first 9 years of Al’s life was spent growing up on his parent’s farm. They farmed two tracts of land, one owned by John and Nellie and the other by Nellie’s father. Due to the Great Depression of 1929 the farms failed and all the farm equipment had to be actioned off. In 1933 the family packed up everything they could fit onto two vehicles and with their German Shepherd Wolf in a crate tied to the running board left the rest behind and headed west to Humboldt County, California thinking there might be better opportunities to provide for the family in the Pacific Northwest.
As a young man John Hodgson, Al’s father, had previously been to Humboldt prior to the 1906 earthquake and worked for the Hammond Lumber Company for a time before heading to San Francisco. Within a short time of the family’s arrival in Humboldt County they made their way out to the Willow Creek area and in 1934 purchased what is now known as Hodgson Hill from William Toms Jr. Al lived on the ranch until war time and like many other young men enlisted in the service and served 5 years in the Navy. Al was stationed at San Diego Naval Air Station and latter served on the USS Kenneth Whiting and held the rank of Aviation Machinist Mate First Class.
After returning home from the war Al traveled back to Albion, Illinois to visit with his sister Marjorie and worked in Albion for a time. While there Al met his future wife Frances Elifritz. Al & Frances were married August 26, 1949 at the Edwards County Fair in Albion, IL. In 1952 they moved out to California where most of Al’s family was living. For a short time, they lived in Santa Rosa eventually ending up in the Eureka / Arcata area of Humboldt County. After the birth of their first son, Mike, they decided to build a house on property given to them by Al’s parents on the Hodgson Ranch in the Willow Creek area. About the time of the birth of their second son, Mark, they we’re in the process of opening their new store Willow Creek Variety.
Frances operated the store while Al worked as a millwright for Carolina Cal, a local plywood mill near Salyer. Around 1960 they moved the store across the street (Hwy 299) to a larger building. From that point forward Al & Frances operated the store full time together. The store was flooded with 4 to 6 inches of water and mud in the 1964/65 flood due to a creek overflowing its banks and the mountain behind the store siding down up against the back of the building. Life changed quickly for the young family as electrical power was out for weeks and the new home was entirely electric with the exception of a wood fireplace in the living room. The family lived in the living room until power was finally restored. Shortly after the flood, property was obtained on the west end of Willow Creek on the north side of Hwy 299. A new much larger building was built to accommodate the growth of the store. In the mid-eighties the building was remodeled and a new section added to enlarge the store to the building you see today, now home to the Willow Creek Family Health Center (Open Door Clinic).
The store was renamed at the time of the remodeling to Hodgson’s of Willow Creek and became a Ben Franklin franchise store allowing Al & Frances to carry an extended line of merchandise. In the span of two weeks starting on Thanksgiving Day of 1957 there were two very devastating fires that destroyed most of the retail businesses in Willow Creek. A short time later the effort began to organize the Willow Creek Volunteer Fire Department and to create the Willow Creek Fire Protection District. Al was a charter member of the fire department and served honorably for 35 years. Besides the fire department and fire district more work needed to be done in the way of domestic water supply as well as water distribution for use by the fire department hence the Willow Creek Community Services District was born.
Much hard work was done by Al and others in the community to obtain grant funding to build the original infrastructure enjoyed by the Willow Creek community today. The Willow Creek Community Services District honored Al in 2008 by naming the new water treatment facility after him. Al & Frances were active in their church and spend many happy moments with their extended church family which spanned over many years. Reviewing the church directories that were saved over the years it was apparent just how many wonderful people they had come to know and love all sharing their faith in God with one another. Al held many positions in the community but the ones he cherished most were husband, father, grandfather, uncle and mentor. Al was the last surviving member of his family that came out to California in 1933.
He was proceeded in death by his parents John and Nellie (Brown) Hodgson, sisters and brothers, Marjorie Cowling, Carl Hodgson, Hazel Howard, Don Hodgson, Mildred Pettigrew, Dorthy Hodgson, Julia Chase and Jack Hodgson. Al is survived by his son Mike and his wife Susan Hodgson and their daughter Dr. Nickisa Hodgson and her husband Dr. Kaveh Zakeri and Mike & Susan’s son Kevin Hodgson who recently graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage and majored in geology. Al is also survived by his son Mark Hodgson. Both Al and Frances were much loved and will be sorely missed by their surviving family.
Services will be held at the Willow Creek Bible Church Saturday, April 7th at 10:30 AM. Interment will follow after the service at the Willow Creek VFW Cemetery. Those wishing to make a memorial contribution in Al’s name may do so to anyone of the following: Willow Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Willow Creek – China Flat Museum or the Willow Creek Bible Church.