Wes Hodgkins, a gentle soul and beloved Maine contra dancer, died of cancer on September 22. Local dancers knew him for his warm smile and welcoming demeanor on the dance floor, and the beautiful obituary (below) makes clear that he exemplified that same open-hearted commitment to his local community in the other realms of his active and engaged life. Such consistency and integrity are rare–even rarer when accompanied by good-humored helpfulness and a sparkling eye. Wes was a gift to the world. We will miss him, and we hold his family and dearest ones in our hearts.
To honor Wes and his dedication to dancing & music, the outdoors, and the Grange, donations in his memory may be made to Downeast Friends of the Folk Arts, Kennebec Land Trust, or The Friends of Starling Hall.
Wesley Merle Hodgkins, Jr. (1947-2020)
FAYETTE: Wesley Merle Hodgkins, Jr., 72, passed away peacefully in the arms of family, on the morning of the autumn equinox, 22 September 2020, after a courageous struggle with cancer.
Wes led an active life, in many circles, but his heart and home were always in Fayette.
A Master Maine Guide, Wes led wilderness canoe trips for several years in the Allagash, and hunting trips in the Oquossoc area before that. Being a guide and running a guiding service was a lifelong dream he felt fortunate to achieve. In recent years, Wes pursued his love for the outdoors in the usual ways — canoeing, fishing, hiking, spending time at camp — and taking his granddaughter on her first hunt on the family land last year.
He was a contra-dancer and a musician, involved with the traditional music revival in the 1970s, where he played music at Starling Hall Grange and welcomed newcomers to the scene. In recent years, Wes continued to play tunes on mandolin, guitar, and piano at home, and to attend area contradances, where he met people with a twinkle in his eye and a warm smile, making newcomers and dance regulars always feel welcome. He created space for people to be themselves.
For many years, Wes practiced tai chi and qigong, ancient arts that combine movement and meditation, attending in recent years advanced training sessions in places as far away as Ibiza, Spain; San Francisco; Washington, DC; and Chicago — and practicing locally at his home and occasionally with a small group in Vienna, Maine, and with his first teacher’s class in Augusta.
Wes was a member and past master of the Starling Hall Grange, a current member of Mill Stream Grange, and a 7th degree member of the Maine State Grange. He loved the Grange as a center of rural community and was glad in recent years to join others at the Mill Stream Grange in Vienna for social occasions. In earlier times, he also served his community for many years as an assistant fire chief in nearby Livermore Falls. He attended University of Maine, majoring in electrical engineering, and he ran a number of businesses, including the popular Tire Barn in Livermore Falls.
Wes loved his home in rural Fayette, where he lived nearly his entire life. He adored the land he explored as a boy even more dearly in his later years. After retiring from guiding, he opened an automotive repair shop at home. His shop saw a steady stream of regular customers, friends, and neighbors, whom he was always glad to help, feeling so lucky to be spending his life doing what he loved, helping others, on the land where he was raised.
He enjoyed gardening and putting up food, going to the frog pond in spring for early sounds of peepers, hearing owls call, and telling stories about his many escapades. Long may those stories and memories live on.
He leaves behind his three children: daughter Heather (Hodgkins) Patterson and her husband Dan of Farmington; son Ryan Hodgkins of Florida; and daughter Rowan (Abby) Labaugh of Augusta; sister Carol (Hodgkins) Millay of Chesterville; two granddaughters, Molly and Audrey; and life companion of several years, Misty Beck. Many cousins, nephews, nieces, and innumerable friends in the local community and the extended traditional music and dance community, wilderness guides, tai chi practitioners, and customers of his shop will all miss his steady, helpful presence.
As Wes wished, there will be no funeral. A memorial celebration will be held at a future date.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift in Wes’s name to one of the causes he supported: Down East Friends of the Folk Arts (deffa.org/support-deffa), Kennebec Land Trust (www.tklt.org), or the Friends of Starling Hall (fayettemaine.org/friends-of-starling-hall.html).