Long-time Hyde Park resident, Mae Bridgeforth Melendez Hodge, who was active in politics, community service and philanthropy, died November 25, 2017 at 99 years old.
Hodge’s dedication and commitment to politics included assisting Attorney Claude Holman in being elected alderman of the 4th Ward and her brother-in-law, Judge William Sylvester White, throughout his political career. She was most proud of helping Harold Washington become elected the first Black mayor of Chicago and supporting her cherished son-in-law Vernon M. Rhinehart in his quest for a judgeship.
She took great pride in her civic work with the NAACP, receiving “The Most Distinguished Woman Award” in 1969 for raising the most money for the organization.
Throughout the years, she along with her sister George, actively raised money for the Harriet Harris YWCA.
Her dedication to community and philanthropic causes was very close to her heart. Hodge served as president of the South Side Community Art Center and later, along with a group of dedicated members including her sister George brought First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to the center.
Hodge was a member of the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society CHASI, charter member of the Jet Set (later becoming the Chicago Chapter of the National Smart Set), a charter member of the Windy City Links, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, The Club bridge club and The Crochet Club. An opera singer in her own right, Hodge continued her love of the opera by working with the Bravo Chapter of Lyric Opera and often attending operatic performances with longtime family friend, Dr. Jerome Lee, Jr.
Her love of gardening was evident as she would host everyone in her Hyde Park garden after the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference Garden Walk, of which she was a member.
She and her sister George hosted celebrities in her home, including Sammy Davis Jr., Ozzie Davis and Ruby Dee.
Hodge was an avid worldwide traveler who left her mark on six of the seven continents where she enjoyed the history, culture, food and music of various countries.
Mae Bridgeforth Melendez Hodge was born 96 miles north of Birmingham, Alabama in a town called Athens, Alabama, on October 4, 1918. She was the youngest of seven children born to Lallie Bedingfield Bridgeforth and William S. Bridgeforth. Her siblings Yancy, Marvin “Curtis,” William “Bill,” George Vivian White and Susie Evans preceded her in death.
Hodge’s family moved from Athens to Birmingham, Alabama, following the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) expansion, where she received her early education. In 1936 she moved to Chicago after completing a year at Alabama State University.
In 1942, she married Stanis S. Melendez, M.D. To that union Carmen Melendez Rhinehart and William S. Melendez were born.
Hodge continued her education and received her BA in Primary Education from Chicago State University (Chicago Teacher’s College) and later her Master’s Degree from LaVerne University.
Following her divorce from Dr. Melendez, she met and married attorney Woodrow W. Hodge; to that union Donna Renee Hodge was born. For 42 years until his death in 1994, she and Woodrow built a life of entrepreneurship and love.
Hodge taught primary education in Chinatown, Woodlawn, Englewood and Hyde Park. She worked alongside her beloved brother Bill rehabbing homes throughout the city, owning several in Hyde Park.
In her later years, she enjoyed traveling with her daughters, leaving her indelible smile and bringing a little bit of the culture back with her.
She was a devoted wife and mother as well as a mentor and role model. Her children were her heart. She leaves to celebrate a life well lived, her loving and devoted children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and a host of family and friends.
Funeral services for Mae Bridgeforth Melendez Hodge are as follows:
Lie in State – Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 from 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. at Unity Funeral Home, 4114 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL; Visitation – Dec. 9, 2017 from 9:30-11:00 a.m. also at Unity Funeral Home followed by the Funeral Services at 11:00 a.m.