Remembering Gerry

Gerry Hodnett was an artist with a following.

“There was something very special about Gerry,” said his sister, Sandy Arden. “He made friends wherever he went and he even touched people he didn’t meet.

When Gerry died at age 74 last year, Sandy was devastated, and so were his closest friends. Among them were his housemates at Unity House’s Sheffield Road residence, where he lived since 2011.

“This is Gerry’s family, too,” Sandy said of the residents and staff at the group home for people with developmental disabilities. “They’re hurting, too.”

Sandy visited the home recently to present an outdoor bench as a gift. It includes a plaque in Gerry’s memory that’s in the shape of a red crayon – his favorite color. The gift is from Sandy, but she had help from an online community of supporters who have come to know Gerry and his art through her.

Gerry has always enjoyed making art and crafts, including drawings and bead jewelry. When Sandy posted on social media about Gerry’s works of art, her friends responded with appreciation. And when she told them in 2020 how COVID had forced a lockdown that kept her from visiting, they responded with an outpouring of art supplies to send to Gerry.

Sandy Arden, sister of the late Gerry Hodnett, sits on a memorial bench outside Sheffield Road IRA alongside Program Manager Elspeth Peterson and Assistant Program Manager Gloria Duncan.

“He had quite a fan base, actually,” Sandy said. “He touched a lot of lives.”

After Gerry’s death, the response from his social media fans was overwhelming. Donations to help pay for the memorial bench came in from family, friends and people Sandy barely knew.

“It was the most heartwarming thing I had ever experienced,” she said, “so loving and spontaneous and genuine.”

The bench and matching side table now sit on the front
deck to welcome visitors to Gerry’s former home.