Monument to Roger Allen Hodge
REMARKS BY HONORABLE JULIAN FRASER, RA
AT NAMING CEREMONY – ROGER HODGE PARK
October 31ST 2011, Nibbs Estate, Sea Cows Bay
It is indeed heart-warming to see so many of you in attendance today to celebrate the naming of this softball field to honor the memory of someone who we knew and loved – the late Roger Allen Hodge.
For many of us, it is also a bittersweet occasion as we reflect on a life that was full of so much promise athletically, and otherwise that was tragically cut short.
As I address you this afternoon, I am also acutely aware that there might be lingering questions in the minds of some, such as: ‘Why all the fuss?’ or ‘Why now?’ or even ‘What’s in a name?’ I sincerely hope that I will be able to dispel such concerns by the conclusion of my remarks.
The Virgin Islands Party, the Party of inclusion, the Party of this present Government has a long standing and well known history of honoring our heroes.
And this event is but one of the many for us; all be it so memorable because the historians have discovered that it is a first in the Territory’s history that a National Facility will be named in honor of a young person.
One of the definitions for the word ‘honor’ is that of a tangible symbol that signifies approval or distinction. There are also many quotes and sayings that help to convey the true meaning of the word.
To quote one such writer, ‘No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.’
Such nuggets of wisdom can also be aptly used to describe the man of the hour, Mr. Roger Hodge, who gave unselfishly of his time and sporting talents as a young Virgin Islander who grew up in the Sea Cows Bay community.
Given the political season that we are now in, I know that some may question the timing of this event.
For the record, it must be told that since 2008, an initial discussion was held at the Cabinet level to name this Softball Field here on the Nibbs Estate, “Roger Hodge Park” in memory of the late Roger Hodge who was a talented softball player and sports enthusiast from right here in Sea Cows Bay.
It was also around that time that the racetrack was renamed, “Ellis Thomas Downs” in honor of another outstanding son of the soil that also hailed from Sea Cows Bay.
An executive decision was also taken to put a committee in place to oversee the planning of both ceremonies.
To this end therefore, I must express my gratitude to this body of hard-working individuals headed by Chairman Mr. Julian Willock and his able deputy Mrs. Cecilia Hodge, who is also Roger’s mother, for their dedication and commitment to seeing this initiative to its fruition.
While the journey to get us to this point in time may have taken a little longer than we anticipated due to some unavoidable setbacks, I am sure you will all agree that the wait was worth the cause.
The naming of places, buildings, and facilities such as recreational grounds is significant as it records the stories of people who have lived there, where they came from and what they did. It establishes a reminder of one’s association with a place. It’s an anchor. It’s about giving information to the next generation.
For generations, countries around the world have been in the practice of naming places and structures after individuals. The Virgin Islands is no different.
Sporting facilities such as this have been named after persons and after other places, particularly the city in which they are located; and more often than not, they are named after the teams that utilize them.
However, that trend is quickly waning since resources are getting scarcer and scarcer, and municipalities are getting wiser and wiser. They are refraining from officially naming these facilities, but instead, entering into commercial arrangements on a contractual basis for the facility to bear a company’s name for a set period.
You all know the names of some of the popular places, such as: The American Airlines Arena home of the Miami Heat; and Citi Field home of theNew York Mets, Citi here referring to Citi Bank. And these arrangements attract lucrative sums.
There is no doubt in my mind, that this business model will some day be entertained in these Virgin Islands, as we are a part of the world, and we are just as economically conscious as the rest of the world.
Now let us focus our attention on the main reason for our being here - Roger Allen Hodge.
Much will be said this afternoon about the life of Roger Hodge and his contributions to sports in this community and the Virgin Islands as a whole.
Personally for me, however, to tell the life story of Roger Hodge is to also tell the story of not only his well-known affiliation with sports, but of his strong family heritage and their generational ties to this hallowed spot that will now bear his name.
Roger’s grand-mother, who is here with us today, was born and raised on this Nibbs Estate where she still lives to this day. This 114.5 acre Estate was purchased by the Virgin Islands Party Government from the Georges family in 1998, for the purpose of making lands available to young first time home owner, particularly members of the Sea Cows Bay community.
She was one of five persons whom because of their longevity on the estate were granted special status, and designated the Category “A” for the purpose of land distribution, and their lots were granted without cost.
And further, their descendants, including grandchildren were second in line with the Category “B” designation. Roger was one such beneficiary, and he received a lot on the Estate, (Right over there).
Roger did not live on the Nibbs Estate, even though it is easy to see that he did spend a considerable amount of time here with his grand-mother, as most children do. But he did the next best thing, by being born and raised just across the street from the Estate where he resided until his death.
Given the circumstances however, it is logical to conclude that Roger planned to live on the Nibbs Estate, and by all accounts die on the Nibbs Estate.
If that was Roger’s desire, if that was his wish, why should we deny him a permanent presence on the Nibbs Estate? And by permanent, I don’t mean over there in the cemetery.
I am of the humble view that this ball field having Roger’s name attached to it, has something to do with destiny, it has something to do with fate.
I recall when the now Ellis Thomas Downs (Right over there), was constructed in 1997 or thereabout, the softball field which sat on the Forbes’ lands had to be removed in order to make way for the development.
That condition persisted until I was elected as the Representative for the District, and Minister for Natural Resources and Labor, where I took the decision to build a softball park for the people of the 3rd District and placed it here on the Nibbs Estate.
Today, it is only fitting that this park being here on this Estate, that a descendant of this very Estate be attached to it in such a significant way. If we failed to do this, history would judge us in a negative light. And we can’t afford that.
There is no doubt that Roger’s legendary performances in the sports - softball, basketball and volleyball, have firmly secured his place among the greats in Virgin Islands sporting history. His community minded spirit that drove him to harness the young sporting talent was also unmatched at the time.
He was young. He was energetic. He was talented. He was respected among his peers and even by older persons who often marveled at his abilities. The Virgin Islands has indeed lost a hero when Roger was tragically taken from us in 2004 at the age of 32.
Today I believe this park was brought here for a reason. Today I believe that Roger died for a reason. Today I believe that Roger’s dying was not in vain.
Roger was most enthusiastic about advancing the level of sporting activities, particularly softball, in the Sea Cows Bay area. He definitely wanted the presence of teams coming from this community to be felt across the Territory and even further afield.
He certainly was a visionary that exhibited unique leadership qualities.
I am sure you will all agree that this tribute to name this softball field on this historic Nibbs Estate, the Roger Allen Hodge Park, is very fitting and most deserving.
It represents a mark of honor and symbolizes the fact that we as a community appreciated Mr. Hodge’s contributions over the span of his very short life, and that his memory will forever live on in our hearts and minds, particularly when we have an opportunity to utilize this field.
I encourage young people present this afternoon that may share the same dreams and visions as Roger Hodge did in the field of sports, to use his example as a launch-pad to pursue those dreams.
You are also not too young to become involved in your community, by being more socially conscious and giving back so that you too could be an example for future generations.
I also encourage others with a passion for softball especially; to work to rebuild this site into the world class facility it is capable of being.
If Roger was alive he would be pleased to know that a field that will now bear his name is being utilized to its fullest to develop young people in sports such as softball.
I know I can count on all of you to honor Roger’s memory in this way.
As I conclude, I wish to personally thank the family of the late Roger Hodge, especially his parents and siblings, for lending support to this very important initiative.
Without your consent, none of this would have been possible. I also extend thanks to the residents of this community for recognizing the importance of this naming ceremony and embracing the true meaning that it signifies.
It is now my honor and privilege to declare that the Sea Cows Bay Softball Field be renamed the Roger Allen Hodge Park.
Thank you and good afternoon