CARLE HODGE'S NEEDLESS DEATH

The murder of Carle Hodge, the finest science writer I ever knew, remains a mystery.

That his death would be shrouded by enigma is only fitting. Hodge himself lived a life so private that many of the pertinent details were unknown by his friends and fellow workers. Everyone liked and admired Hodge. But no one actually knew much about him.

Although unfailingly charming and outgoing, Hodge was an exceedingly private person who never volunteered particulars either about his personal life or his past.

What makes this unusual is that so many people who make their careers in the newspaper business spend a great deal of their time boasting about their past exploits, either real or imagined.

Bob Early, who was Hodge's editor both at Arizona Highways and the Arizona Republic, found that out only after agreeing to speak at Hodge's memorial service.

"He worked for me more than ten years," Early says. "When I sat down to write my remarks about him, I realized I knew almost nothing about him other than the fact that he was a fine writer and a wonderful guy to be around."
Carle Hodge kept his own peace. He maintained that stance until the end of his life, which came in the early-morning hours of September 30. He was beaten to death in front of his apartment, police say, by an 18-year-old street punk with a lengthy criminal record.

If I were asked to pick the half-dozen most interesting people I've met in the newspaper business, Hodge's name would easily be high on the list. But I never knew much about him, either.

He was of medium height, had a full head of hair and carefully cultivated a drooping mustache much like Mark Twain's. Hodge strode with a limp caused by a childhood disease that resulted in a shortened leg. But like Melville's ivory-legged Captain Ahab, Hodge limped with his head held high and his chest stuck out.

He habitually smoked or cradled in his hand one of his 15 pipes. He loved the company of women, was an omnivorous reader and never faltered in his pursuit of the craft of writing. And, happily, he could down dry martinis with the ālan of a Russian general officer.

Hodge married five times and produced three children, now all grown. And during his final years, he lived with Sylvia Cody, a most attractive young editor more than 30 years his junior.

After Hodge's death on September 30, not one but two memorial services were held for him. This was necessitated by the fact that he had worked for newspapers in both Tucson and Phoenix.

At the Tucson service, held there in the botanical gardens, Pete Cowgill, an old companion and an outdoors writer, openly expressed his annoyance at the setting.

"Carl would be pissed off," Cowgill said, "that we weren't all together toasting him in a bar."
Hodge's journalistic career began in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, and included jobs with Time, Newsweek, the New York Daily News and Associated Press. He traveled around the world on assignments. In Arizona, he worked for the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson and the Republic here in Phoenix. He was a highly valued contract writer for Arizona Highways magazine at the time of his death.

A story Hodge wrote on astronomy for Arizona Highways is scheduled to be the cover article next April, says Early, the magazine's editor. Another, on the 100th anniversary of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, is scheduled for next May.

Although Hodge was a professional writer all his life, he never stopped trying to improve his technique, according to those who worked with him through the years. He apparently spent his entire life in quest of new words and ever more felicitous phrases for use in his stories.

Bernard Merems, who now lives in Patagonia, was Hodge's copy boy at Time magazine in the 1950s. During that period, Hodge was something of a dashing figure, Merems says, who frequently moved about New York City with a ballerina on his arm.

In those days, Hodge edited what Time magazine called "The Press" section. Now dormant, it was an immensely influential part of the magazine, because its editor had the power to skewer the nation's press lords and to both make and break the reputations of journalism's biggest names.

One of the people Hodge helped in those days was Fredric March, the famous film actor. March had been accused of being a Communist sympathizer during the McCarthy scare years. Hodge wrote a piece clearing him. That was in the 1950s.

More than a decade later, in 1967, March looked up Hodge in Tucson to thank him. March was there to make a Western movie with Paul Newman called Hombre.

Merems still remembers a line Hodge wrote about a well-known publisher of the day: "When he smiled, he looked like he had just bitten into an overripe persimmon."

"I was just out of Brooklyn College," Merems says, "and Carle became my mentor. I always thought he was so much older than I was. It later turned out that he was only ten years my senior. But he was so much more sophisticated.

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