Just one year and one week ago tomorrow, a bunch of Courier-Times friends got together at retired photographer John Guglielmi’s home to send retiring sports editor John Hodge off into retirement.
In the photo, John is the second from the left, the one proudly wearing the dorky RETIREE badge, the kind of thing he loved. It was a great day, followed by another, when the newspaper hosted an open house for him and the traffic and laughter were nonstop. In came coaches, former employees, former athletes John had covered in his 27-year tenure at the paper, mostly as sports editor. Even State Rep. Tom Saunders personally showed up to present John with the Distinguished Hoosier Award.
I remember watching that week on the last day of his career as John strode off through the front door at his usual fast clip, old-school briefcase in hand. He was retired. We gave him a great send off. It felt satisfying.
He had exactly, to the day, one year of retirement when without warning, he dropped over dead on a golf course on a gorgeous July day in the month of his 66th year.
For the past week, I have thought a lot about John and our friendship. Perhaps it was an unlikely bond we shared, a sports editor and a lifestyle editor. What could we have in common? As it turns out, more things than I can count. We both took our first breaths at Reid Memorial Hospital in Richmond. We both loved our hometowns, his of Richmond and mine of Liberty, and our transplanted ones of New Castle. We had the same offbeat sense of humor. We were both corny as heck.
We shared woes of caring for and loving aging parents, including the heartbreak involved, including the humorous moments. We were newsroomies. We talked a lot.
So today, just hours before John’s funeral and his last ride to his original hometown where he has some fine real estate in one of the prettiest cemeteries anywhere, Earlham, I want to pick up the phone. I want to call John!
No one loved a social gathering more than that guy. I want to tell him that Craig and Bethany Mauger, two of his favorite reporters in a long line of them, are coming from Michigan; that Bill Brooks, our first shared managing editor, the guy who hired us both, now of Indy, is attending. I want him to know that people like basketball legends Steve Alford and Kent Benson send unsolicited, spontaneous tributes; that James Pindell, a Boston Globe reporter who has the national stage often on TV as a political expert, calls John out as his mentor.
I know that John would enjoy the plans for today. He’d like it that some of us are meeting early to visit and share special memories of our one-of-a-kind favorite sports editor, then going to honor him officially, then seeing him back to Richmond properly, and that it doesn’t end there. His Kiwanis buddies are hosting a reception back in New Castle after all of that.
He’d like it that one of his many best friends, Jeremy Hines, is telling stories on him at the service today. I can hear John’s distinctive laugh now, just thinking about all of this; thinking of how we loved him.
But then, I’m sure he knows.