Six months after his official “retirement” from Trinity, Birty R. Hodgson says he is thrilled to be back – even if it is as a part-timer.
Not long after the church he calls “my second home” feted him with a farewell reception last spring, Hodgson said he received a phone call from then-pastor Johanna Wagner. “I’m struggling here,” he said she told him. He said he didn’t hesitate when asked to return two days a week to assist with Trinity’s Wednesday food pantry and Sunday worship services.
“I guess we’re kind of stuck with each other,” he said. ”I had to come back; the people loved me too much.”
Birty, a native of Nicaragua, joined that country’s army at age 14 and later took a job as a ship worker. He fled to the U.S. in 1983 to escape what he described as Nicaragua’s increasingly oppressive government. The then-29-year-old husband and father of three young children left his family behind until they could join him in Miami a year later. In 1988, a cousin who was a nurse in St. Louis convinced him to move his family here.
He landed a job as a handyman in the Ferguson-Florissant School District and was recruited to Trinity in 1994 by then-office manager Colleen Potratz and then-pastor Don Weems. “I came for the health insurance,” he said, smiling, “but I stayed for the people.”
He became a U.S. citizen in 2001.
“I was doing everything, inside, outside,” he said of his 25-year jack-of-all-trades position. “I know every corner of this place.
“I’ve always said I had 300 bosses at Trinity,” he said, speaking of Trinity members. “I was always a lucky guy.”