An honourable couple
When veteran educator Professor Geraldine Hodelin stepped forward on National Heroes Day 2013 to receive a national honour, she had no idea her husband would just a year later be walking the same path.
Yesterday it was retired public administrator Milton Hodelin's turn as he and his wife were back on the lawns of Governor General Sir Patrick Allen's King's House residence in St Andrew.
Professor Hodelin was in 2013 formally recognised with membership in the Order of Distinction in the rank of officer for service in the fields of education and academic administration.
Her husband of 43 years was yesterday officially acknowledged with membership in the Order of Distinction in the rank of commander for outstanding contribution to public service in the fields of procurement, engineering and project management.
He told The Gleaner that, notwithstanding his wife's earlier achievement, news that he was being honoured this year came as a surprise.
"It's always unexpected because one works for many years and then this happens ... . I wasn't expecting anything like this," he said.
For Professor Hodelin, surprise is the understatement of the century.
"It was the biggest surprise ever, when I got the call (last year)," she declared.
"I didn't know if I laughed or cried. I challenged the person who called me and I said 'are you out of your mind?"
The acting principal of the University of Technology shared that she even thought at one point that one of her students were playing a prank on her.
"So it really was very special. I thought that the years of work that I had put into education had paid off."
She added: "You do your work and you deal with the issues and you survive them and you move on to something else and suddenly one day somebody calls and says you are going to be recognised for that work."
The couple resided in Canada before returning to Jamaica in the politically troubled period of 1978.
Retired in 2009 as chief executive officer at the National Works Agency (NWA), Milton Hodelin currently manages the Sugar Transformation Unit, which is currently involved in a project aimed at revitalising sugar-producing communities.
"It is such a (great) feeling," he said of being recognised for his decades of service. "I lived and studied in Canada. I encouraged 'Gerry', my wife, to return home and we came back at a time when everybody was leaving.
He added: "My colleagues and peers in Toronto said they were expecting us to return to Canada ... . We never did, despite the challenges ... coming from a metropolitan city to Kingston and having to take public transportation, but we persevered and it paid off ... . I have no regrets ... ."
While the Hodelins received their awards a year apart, another couple, the Metcalfes, picked up honours on the same day, yesterday.
Former FirstCaribbean International Bank managing director, Clovis Metcalfe, joined the Order of Distinction (officer class) in recognition of outstanding service to the banking industry and the public service, while his wife, pharmacist Hermine Metcalfe, received the Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service for over 44 years of service to the pharmaceutical sector.
Clovis Metcalfe, retired from FirstCaribbean International Bank Jamaica in 2010, after taking over as head of its Jamaican operations a year earlier. He had been with the bank for 36 years.
Hermine Metcalfe has held positions as chief pharmacist of the Kingston Public and Victoria Jubilee hospitals as well as assistant to the director of pharmaceutical services in the Ministry of Health.
Hundreds of supporters and well-wishers turned out in their numbers yesterday to support the 233 recipients of national honours and awards.
Among those inducted into the Order of Jamaica were The Most Reverend Charles Dufour, Archbishop of Kingston, for distinguished contribution to religion and community development; Senator K.D. Knight, for distinguished service to the legal profession and politics; and human-rights activist, Florizelle 'Flo' O'Connor, for distinguished contribution to human-rights advocacy.
Shirley Pryce, head of the Household Workers Association, who joined to Order of Distinction in the rank of officer, for her sterling contribution to the Jamaica Household Workers Union and the Caribbean Domestic Workers Association, noted that it was a humbling experience for her.
"It's an emotional time for me right now, because I didn't expect to be recognised. Domestic workers most times are forgotten and I have worked tirelessly in ensuring that this group of persons are protected and it's good to know that the hard work paid off," she declared.
Jeffery Spooner, director of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, who received the Order of Distinction for service to the Meteorological Division, said he had to be present though he was battling the chikungunya virus.
Other recipients of membership in the Order of Jamaica:
n Professor Joseph Frederick - For distinguished service to the Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies and the University Hospital of the West Indies, in particular for research conducted in assisted reproduction.
n Dennis Daly (posthumous) - For contribution to law and human-rights advocacy.
n Glen Mills - For outstanding contribution to track and field through the coaching of Jamaican athletes.
n Dr Karl Wellington - For exceptional and exemplary service to agriculture, in particular animal genetics.
n Professor Fitroy Augier - For over 50 years of distinguished service to academia in particular Caribbean history.