Richard Hodge stands on the corner of 24th and Burleigh, outside COA’s Goldin Center campus, on a sunny Friday afternoon. The bright greenish-yellow of his crossing guard uniform immediately catches the eye, a necessary characteristic in this line of work.
He fist-bumps children on their way by, creating a sense of safety that extends past the uniform. For Hodge, this isn’t just another job. “The most important thing is the safety of the kids,” he says.
This isn’t Hodge’s normal corner — he’s usually at 35th and Hampton — but he’s filling in for someone else today. It isn’t out of the ordinary, though. For Hodge, variety has always been in the job description.
“I changed careers three times,” says the now-retired 65-year-old.
He did automotive work before working as a chef and restaurant manager. Hodge said he’s grateful for the different experiences because they’ve helped him learn and grow but, if he could choose, he would have dedicated more time to the hospitality industry.
“Food service,” he says, remembering his days as a restaurant manager.
“Bein’ able to see different types of clienteles and makin’ sure that peoples’ comfort zone was met,” says Hodge. “It went well — perfect opportunity.”
Hodge, who grew up in Los Angeles before attending school at the Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin, says it was jobs and education that brought him to the Midwest.
But it was family that made him stay. He has two adult children — 32 and 35 — and was married for 36 years before divorcing.
“It is what it is,” he says. “You grow apart. It’s not too uncommon for professional people to grow apart — that’s pretty typical, for the most part.”
“You have to accept what it is. It wasn’t bitter — we just grew apart.”
While some things have changed for Hodge, others haven’t. He still lives in the same place he’s been since 1979. “If you want to find a premiere place — [one of] the hidden jewels in Milwaukee — in that 1800 block of Cherry is a subdivision; it’s a jewel,” he says. “It’s great over there.”
And, even though he might wish some things would have turned out differently, Hodge has no regrets. “I have a great life,” he says. “I think I’ve done it well.”
Did you find value in Richard’s story? If so, please subscribe to our newsletter; we publish the story of a different Milwaukeean every week.
Milwaukee Stories is a nonprofit organization that works to bring you the real stories of regular people all across our city. This work is solely supported by individual contributions from people like you. Please consider becoming a sustaining member, or make a one-time donation, today.
Patron | $3 monthly (or $50 one-time) donation
Member | $7 monthly (or $100 one-time) donation
Partner | $25 monthly (or $500+ one-time) donation