Johnnie H. Hodges Sr. returns Friday to the home on Humboldt parkway where he lived for more than a half-century.
Just four months ago, the 90-year-old World War II veteran was unceremoniously lifted out of a porch chair, placed in a stretcher and carried from the house after foreclosure.
Hodges had lost track of his finances over several years while caring for his wife, Flora, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease before she died last year. A big chunk of his limited means, he said, had gone into covering expenses associated with the costly disease.
And though the bank had tried to work things out for him, the mortgage eventually landed with the federal government.
Several articles detailing Hodges’ plight appeared in The Buffalo News and then were picked up by national media, including the Washington Post, Fox News and Yahoo Real Estate News. Since then, nearly 3,000 donors came to his rescue through an online fund set up by Williamsville resident Greg Elwood, who was moved by Hodges’ story.
When donations crested at more than $110,000, the family requested that the GoFundMe site be shut down. More than enough money was available to buy the house, appraised at $46,000, pay for extensive repairs, and set up a fund to cover Hodges’ household expenses.
Now Hodges is scheduled to move back in Friday morning.
“It’s a whole week away. I want to do it today,” the Navy veteran said this weekend. “I guess I can wait. Things are working out good so far.”
A ceremony is planned for the occasion. He will cut a red, white and blue ribbon at the bottom of his front steps, climb them and walk into his home at 369 Humboldt.
The homecoming celebration is scheduled to take place two days after Robin Hodges, his daughter, buys the house back from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which previously had guaranteed the home mortgage to the local bank that had foreclosed. Bank officials had said they made repeated unsuccessful attempts to try and work things out with the senior citizen.
His daughter, a single, working mother of three children, will move from her Elmwood Village apartment and live in a second-floor apartment at the house to keep an eye on her father. She said her father never told her of his financial problems because he did not want to place additional burdens upon her.
But all of that represents a chapter that is about to close with a homecoming that will include dignitaries, singers singing songs of praise, a clergy member offering prayers of thanksgiving, and family members expressing thanks to those who donated.
“We need to give God the glory. God touched the hearts of those donors,” Robin Hodges said, expressing hope that people who donated will attend the celebration in the front yard of the home. “It is so important for people to see my father walking back into his house.”
Among the dignitaries scheduled to be present 11 a.m. Friday are Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who succeeded in getting the attention of federal housing officials to work with Hodges and his daughter; Mayor Byron W. Brown, who will present a City of Buffalo gift basket; members of the Buffalo Fire Department Honor Guard; the Patriot Guard Motorcycle Riders; and Erie County Senior Services Community Planning Coordinator Timothy Hogue.
Serving as emcees will be Robin Hodges’ 20-year-old twin sons, Cory and Casey; and her younger son, Jonathan, who will offer a speech of thanks.
What does Johnnie Hodges, who has been living in a Cheektowaga senior citizen apartment since last July, think of all the big doings on his behalf?
“That’s really beautiful.”