‘Super Dave’ Hodsgon at one of his favourite spots at the Honour Ranch near Ashcroft. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

‘Super Dave’ Hodsgon at one of his favourite spots at the Honour Ranch near Ashcroft. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

‘Super Dave’ Hodgson giving back to others at Honour Ranch

‘My purpose is to make this place successful for those in need and those in uniform.’

At the Honour Ranch near Ashcroft, he’s known as “Super Dave”. And at an age when most people would be happy to slow down, Dave Hodgson — who turned 80 in July — spends his retirement as a volunteer at the ranch, where he is the property manager for the site.

“I’ve been on the property on and off for 10 years,” says Hodgson. “I wanted something to do, so I came up here and worked for the owners.” The enterprise, which featured cabins and ziplines, went bust, and the property was acquired by the Honour House Society, as a retreat for military and first responder personnel.

“My daughter Beverley is a paramedic and knew about the Honour House, and she said I’d worked there and volunteered me. I came up with them, and they asked me if I’d stay on board to look after things.”

That was four years ago, and now he is a fixture at the site.

“I’ve taken a few breaks, but I’m usually here every day. This place was designed as a summertime resort, and it’s been turned into a year-round site, so we put in complete new underground water lines and a water system. The lines were only two feet deep, so we re-dug everything and insulated under all the cabins. We upgraded the road and I plow it in winter. We put in a water tank above the site, and put in two shops (one in progress), and we’re going to build 10 more cabins.

“That’s my job. Someone says ‘We need a road here, we need a pipeline here,’ and I look after that. I organize construction, labour, contractors, and end up on equipment. Every time you do something you have to add something else, so there’s never a lack of work.”

Hodgson — who lives with his wife Dilys at the YD Ranch near Barnes Lake — has packed a lot of experiences into his life. He grew up in Hedley as one of nine children who were raised by their mother, who was widowed when Hodgson was only four. “She taught us the value of hard work, and that boys and girls were equal, and that if you have something you look after it. We were poor, but very happy. She used to spend an hour with each of us a week, so we could vent, and would make us our favourite meals. Mine was an onion sandwich.”

Hodgson quit school when he was in Grade 9, and came home to find a duffle bag on the front porch.

“There was a note on it that said ‘You’re obviously smarter than the person who’s feeding you and looking after you, so go and show us what you’ve got.’ I became a cowboy in Princeton, then went into the Navy, and then became a welder/fabricator.”

He was working at Mica Creek and living in Victoria in 1968, but knew some people who were working at Bethlehem Copper near Logan Lake.

“I came and stayed for a winter — a long winter — and I’m still here. I lived at Mary’s Café in a trailer court where the big pit is, and when they started developing what’s now Teck I moved to Halfway trailer court and lived there for years.” In 1984 he bought a place at the YD Ranch, and has been there ever since.

“I’d come down to town every second week on a Friday, and did a lot of visiting. I’ve never lived anywhere that I’ve enjoyed more than Ashcroft, and I’ve lived lots of places. The people here to me are excellent people, second to none, and it’s the kind of town that makes you want to stay. My kids and grandkids went to school here, and I’ll be here until I’m not here anymore.”

When he was in his 70s, Hodgson went back to school and got his Grade 12 diploma. “I thought ‘I want to finish school.’”

He’s the first to admit he’s led a rough-and-tumble life, one that’s taken him to Ashcroft Hospital “a lot of times.” He has also helped other people: he received the Order of Jerusalem Medal after an incident on Mother’s Day 1985, when he came upon an accident scene near Princeton and pulled three people from a car that was upside down in a creek. “I saved them all.”

In addition to working at a variety of different mines, Hodgson spent 12 years with the Métis Nation, eventually becoming vice-president. After that, he says, he came to what’s now the Honour Ranch property to relax. “I thought it would be a nice place to sit and watch it grow and go into the bush and talk to squirrels.”

His time at the Ranch hasn’t been without difficulty, and he has been described as a true hero during last year’s wildfires.

“That had to be one of the worst emotional periods of my life, because of my family. When the Tremont Creek wildfire started nearby we were sitting on our deck, and I said it was too close. Then it broke loose and headed to the YD. My grandson said ‘You have to go, you can’t run anymore.’”

Hodgson stayed part of the time in Ashcroft and part of the time at the Honour Ranch. “There was no one here but myself. We were set up, but we could maybe have saved three trees, because we don’t have much water. But there was no one else here, so I made sure this place was looked after, because I couldn’t go back home as they wouldn’t let me in.

“It was an emotional and devastating time as a father, grandfather, and husband to watch the fire come down to the YD. It went past us, then turned around and came back. It was at the front door and the back door. Hats off to the Ashcroft Fire Department. They were awesome, and did everything they possibly could to help people at the YD, and we made it.”

He describes every day as a challenge, but says he thrives on that. “This is a good place for me to retire and contribute back to people who looked after me. My family has a lot of medical people in it, and I relate to what the Honour Ranch is for: people who wear uniforms and see things every day they don’t want to see.

“Honour Ranch is the perfect place and perfect setting for everyone who needs to come and have a look at themselves and straighten their lives out after what’s they’ve seen with their eyes and in their lifetime. They can restart their lives and gather their thoughts and do some healing. It’s perfect for that up here.”

Hodgson — who has had two strokes and a heart attack — says he knows he has to start slowing down, but feels he has to keep going. “If you don’t move you’re done, but I know what I can and can’t do.

“They say in your lifetime you should try 10 different careers. I’ve done my 10 and then some, and it’s been done with the support of my family. And none of it could have been done without the support of my wife Dilys, who’s stood beside me come or hell or high water since 1958.”

His objective now is to see the Honour Ranch fully operational before he leaves.

“When I get up in the morning and head to this place I look forward to seeing it officially running. I feel that we — everyone who works with me — have done what we needed to do to help people put their life together. I guess I’m putting my life together so others can get the benefit from this place that I get. When I walk through that door there’s nothing here to interfere. It’s you and the world; no phones ringing or cars driving.

“My purpose is to make this place successful for those in need and those in uniform.”


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