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Footprints: Dr Margaret Hodges - Naturist, artist, activist now relaxes

Published:Monday | July 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Margaret Hodges

In 1951, Hurricane Charlie devastated Jamaica. To help with the recovery process, town planner Bill Hodges, his wife Margaret (nee Bywaters) and their children arrived in the island from England the following year.

But the family didn't return to England, and settled at Sterling Castle, Red Hills. Margaret, a medical doctor, born April 29, 1918, worked at Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Edna Manley Health Centre, Trench Town Health Centre and Comprehensive Clinic.

Yet, attending to sick people was not Dr Hodges' only preoccupation. She was smitten by the island's

beauty, explored and embraced it. She was an active member of the Natural History Society of Jamaica (NHSJ), organising and going on many field trips.

The woman with a solid stride was a great walker, and to the amazement of many, she took her family and friends on a hike to the Blue Mountain Peak to celebrate her 85th birthday. She maintained an active outdoor life way into her 90s.

Dr Hodges was also a founding director of the Jamaica Conservation Development Trust (JCDT), which manages the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. Among her many contributions was the conception and building of a famous nature trail at Jamaica's first Green Expo held by the JCDT.

For several years she judged school environmental projects for the Jamaica Environment Trust.

But, Dr Hodges was not satisfied with just viewing the beauty, "she captured the landscape, flora, fauna and people in delicate paintings and drawings". For the medic and naturist was also an artist. She contributed regular illustrated articles to the NHSJ's spot in the Children's Own, and provided illustrations and designs for fundraising T-shirts, mugs and tea towels for the NHSJ and the JCDT.

She was an advocate for peace and justice, and the conservation of the natural environment. In the 1970s she prepared exhibitions for the Jamaica Peace Committee, and was for many years, an active member of Jamaicans for Justice.

On July 6, Dr Hodges' campaigns ceased. Among those whom she has left to reflect upon her inspirational life are her children, Jill, Ann and Stephen; in-laws, Athar, Colin and Carol; grandchildren, Samora, Rico and Lalla; and nieces, Caroline, Elizabeth, Jane and their families. The "wonderful" mother with a "lovely smile and an easy laugh" was a source of "abundant inspiration, and quiet guidance".

- Paul H. Williams