“I served five years in the Army … 14 months in the hospital when they were trying to save my leg when I got shot. I was in the Battle of the Bulge … in the snow,” the 94-year-old said.
He received the Purple Heart, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star, combat badge, as well as numerous other medals — though he recalls they were a bit late arriving. Hodnett didn’t receive the honors while in the service. His granddaughter made it her mission to get him the recognition he deserved, delivering his medals decades after his time in the Army had ended.
“They had a fire in the warehouse and all of my records that the government had of my being in the service burned up … but I had my discharge papers. Kelly, my granddaughter, who worked for Jack Kingston for seven years, said ‘Papa, I can get those medals for you.’ I never got them because I was wounded and sent right back,” he said. “So she got my medals for me.”
While Hodnett is proud of and humbled by the recognition he’s received — be it from local civic groups or from the United States government — his greatest treasures aren’t mounted on plaques or found in a display case. The tokens he most treasures are contained in the many picture frames that dot his desk — his family. Of all of those images, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that Hodnett adores, there is one that stands out as his greatest prize: his wife of 71 years, Anne.
“You gotta admit, that’s a good looking woman,” he beamed, as a boyish grin spread across his face. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my wife. We have fun, and we love each other to death. Getting her to marry me — it’s the best deal I’ve ever done.”
Anne Hodnett is one topic that the doting husband never tires of discussing and the soldier-turned-business man literally lights up talking about the leading lady in his extraordinary life.
“She’s fantastic. She is a remarkable lady,” the local real estate giant said. “There’s no way I can say enough about her.”
While it’s been more than seven decades, Hodnett can still vividly remember the first time he laid eyes on her. The two have slightly different versions of exactly how that happened, though.
They do agree on this: her brother had been dating Roy Hodnett’s sister. However, the two of them had never met until one life-changing day.
“Now this is the truth. My brother came into the office where I was working as a secretary and he brings two guys with him — Roy and another guy. My brother wanted me to go on a date with the other guy because they needed a date for him. I don’t remember his name because I wasn’t going to do it. He just didn’t appeal to me. I told him I couldn’t because I had a girlfriend coming over, which was an excuse,” Anne Hodnett remembered.
“Then when I got home that night, they were sitting with my mother in the living room. They said that Roy’s date had fallen through and wanted me to go out with him and that my friend could go out with the other guy. I said to my brother, ‘Isn’t that weird that I’m going to go on a date with your girlfriend’s brother?’ And he said, ‘No.’”
Roy Hodnett didn’t share her concern — at all.
“I remember seeing her for the first time. My heart stopped. I fell in love with her right then,” he said. “Before I ever spoke to her I told myself, ‘I’m going to marry that girl.’ In fact, I tried to talk her into marrying me that night.”
Anne Hodnett, however, doesn’t necessarily buy his story.
“I tell him he’s ridiculous. I’ve heard of love at first sight, but I don’t know if I necessarily believe that,” she said. “But he did ask me to marry him that night. I told him, ‘You’re cute but kind of crazy.’ It is nice to be appreciated by your husband, though.”
For Roy Hodnett, the feeling of awe that hit him those many years ago still continues every day that he wakes up next to his bride. He’s always more than willing to brag on his wife — her giving nature, her vibrant personality, her unyielding beauty.
He is particularly proud of his wife’s work with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. He says organizing training films at the center in Brunswick is one of the many things his energetic better half spends her days doing.
“She makes training films over at the base. She finds all the actors and gets all the locations lined up,” he said. “She started role playing over there when she was the president of the Island Players here. I guess that’s been 30 years ago.”
Anne Hodnett works with the group filming for three or four days a month. She is currently focusing on a film about human trafficking.
“They are doing a little bit at the time. She’s really excited about it. It’s such an important thing,” he said.
She thoroughly enjoys the work, too, and her many years working at the center.
“It’s a lot of fun. I’ve been
there since ‘76 and I’m not going to quit,” she said. “I have a lot
of energy and once I dedicate myself to something … I kinda overdo it.”
She brought the same commitment to her marriage. And the couple has built a life structured on love, mutual respect and, equally important, having fun together. That’s not to say, however, that they haven’t had ups and downs.
“If he tells you we’ve never had a fuss — that’s not true,” she said. “We have. I was young when we got married and I used to fly off the handle about all sorts of things. He’d do one of two things — he’d take his paper and go somewhere else for an hour or two. Or he’d look me in the eyes and say, ‘Your brown eyes are so pretty when you are all excited like that.’ How can you stay mad at someone when they say that?”
Spats aside, their life together has been one big happy adventure, one that eventually led to the Golden Isles. After Roy Hodnett was discharged from the Army, the two settled down to raise their three children in Virginia. On a vacation to Jekyll Island in the late 1960s, the two happened upon St. Simons Island. They decided then and there that this “little slice of heaven” was the place for them. They returned to Virginia to pack up and officially became Golden Isles residents in 1968. At the time, Roy Hodnett was working for a cookie brokerage company and decided to retire.
But after a few days at home, Anne Hodnett made the decision that he wasn’t ready to give up working. Telling him that she married him “for better or worse but not for lunch,” she sent him right back out to find a second career — at 62. He found a partner and decided to give real estate a try.
Suffice it to say, it worked out.
Even now as he approaches his 95th birthday, Roy Hodnett wakes up in the morning, dresses, eats the breakfast his wife cooks for him and heads into the office. After leaving the company for a brief spell for another attempted retirement, he feels he’s back for good.
“My daughter, Pat, came to me and said, ‘Daddy, you’ve got to come back.’ So I did. I’ve been back for nine years. I think I’ve only missed five days this year,” he said. “I enjoy it. I enjoy life and I enjoy people. I like to do for people.”
He attributes his success in business and life to a very simple philosophy.
“You really have to treat others the way you want to be treated. That’s really it,” he said. “It is simple.”
As for their secret to longevity and health, the couple has a few musings on that. For Anne, it’s staying active and involved in the things that matter.
“I’m really blessed to have my health. And I stay busy. I love to babysit my grandchildren or really anybody’s children if they are willing to let me. I love to cook. I probably cook too much,” she said. “I also volunteer at Manna House and MAP (International). I love packing up the medicine.”
Roy Hodnett also has his secrets.
“I’ve never had a drink or smoked a cigarette. I’ve always exercised a little bit, but not too much,” he said.
But the real reason Roy Hodnett is still going strong is fairly clear.
“It’s my wife,” he said with a grin.