A wide cross section of the community gathered at the New Testament Church of God International Worship Centre in Baugher’s Bay on 18 January to say farewell to former legislator, Mr. Omar Wallace Hodge, who was affectionately known as “The People’s Man.”
The former legislator died at his home on 20 December at the age of 75. He was first elected to the Legislative Council in 1979 and served for 32 consecutive years.
Thursday’s funeral service was a stately send-off that befitted a jovial and down-to-earth politician who spent decades of his life to help the BVI community and the many immigrants who made the BVI their home. Even more touching was the fact that the service had a prelude in the form of a procession from the vicinity of LJD VI Block along the Blackburne Highway to the church. Most notable is the fact that the procession and service were held in the Sixth District which Hon. Hodge vigorously represented for years.
During the service Jeremy Hodge, son of the deceased People’s Man explained that the tributes, support and well wishes the community expressed turned a very somber period into one of joy and lots of beautiful reflections.
The eulogy was read by Mrs. Patsy Lake, a longtime friend of Mr. Hodge. In her eulogy Mrs. Lake fondly told the story of how Mr. Hodge met his wife Miriam during a visit to the Dominican Republic and the role she played in officially introducing the two.
Mrs. Lake also shared that Hon. Hodge was dedicated to his people, and would not hear of it, when he was offered an opportunity to run at large. She also compared Hon. Hodge to currently serving legislators and asked which currently sitting Member of the House of Assembly suits the title of People’s Man or Woman: “His heart was filled with love for people…Who can we look for in today’s modern politicians and say that person is a people’s man or woman?” Mrs. Lake asked.
“If you had a problem, Omar was never too busy to listen or to help. It never mattered to him if you could vote for him or not, whether you were from here, there or elsewhere, Omar will still help you, or if you were black, white or blue, neither of this mattered to Omar. If you spoke English, French or Spanish, it didn’t matter either,” Mrs. Lake added.
Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith during a press conference later in the day of Hon. Hodge’s funeral stated: “As we laid him to rest this morning, I thought about the contributions he has made to the overall development of the Virgin Islands. He was a skilled politician, but most of all he was indeed the people’s man.”
“Before I even got into politics, Mr. Hodge was a politician who always came to the House, prepared to defend the people of his district and of this Territory. He was a man that fiercely loved the Virgin Islands and in many ways worked to advance this Territory. I hope that more of our young people and residents had a chance to learn about his life and his contributions since his passing and are inspired to work for the Virgin Islands, just as Mr. Hodge so valiantly did. I again offer my condolences to his family and also thank them for sharing Mr. Hodge with our community,” Hon. Smith added.
Mr. Hodge was interred at the Johnson’s Ghut Cemetery. He is survived by his three children and his wife Dr. Miriam Rodriguez Hodge.