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Obituary: Janet Elaine Hodges

Grandmother, passionate music teacher, was 80 year Claremont resident

Janet Elaine Hodges was born October 20, 1939 in Pomona to Ronald and Mildred (Markham) Flora. Her parents and their forebears were farmers in Nebraska and before that Indiana. Janet lived in Claremont for 80 of her 82 years.

She was a talented musician. Playing and teaching piano became her joy at a very young age as well as serving as the organist for First Baptist Church of Claremont at the tender age of 16. She was still playing the organ there until just a few months ago.

Her faith was a large part of her life as was First Baptist. The church was founded in an old orange grove in 1949, and she and her parents were charter members.

She and her family lived across the street from the Hodges family while she was growing up.  Paul Hodges also attended First Baptist and was a charter member. She and Paul started dating in the late 1950s and would often visit Hodges Claremont Bakery (now Some Crust) after closing for a treat.

The couple married in June 1959 at Webb Chapel on the Webb School campus in Claremont. At the time she was using her administrative skills working at Sunkist, a local citrus co-op. Some years later they had two daughters, Heather in 1963, and Heidi in 1964. Their church started a preschool and she started working there when her daughters were old enough to attend.

After the founder’s retirement she became the director of Claremont First Baptist Nursery School and carried on the founder’s vision during her 53-year tenure. There were many alums who brought their children back to attend the school when they got old enough. She retired just four years ago but continued to teach piano lessons until a few months before her death.

She was passionate about seeing young musicians flourish and would search for music that inspired them. One of her students went on to work on Broadway and many others have continued to use their musical skills in their daily lives.

Her famous chocolate chip cookies won a first-place award at the L.A. County Fair. She always baked hundreds of them for her piano recitals and Claremont’s Fourth of July parade.

She and her husband were both Claremont High School alumni. When their daughters were at Claremont High, they became very involved with the band and color guard boosters, sewing flags and making a new banner for the letter carriers. She also sewed innumerable beautiful outfits for her daughters (sometimes matching!) and Halloween costumes when her grandchildren came along.

She loved her family dearly, her husband Paul, daughter Heather and son-in-law Don Clark, daughter Heidi Hodges, granddaughter Ashley (Clark) Pecor, grandson-in-law Joe Pecor, grandson Zachary Clark and his girlfriend Sophie Matthews, and many cousins. After receiving an inheritance from her grandmother, she used the money to take her family on numerous “once in a lifetime” trips to Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, and the Caribbean.

Another of her joys were her cats and dogs. The couple took in more than 20 strays over the years, including two litters of kittens.

“Her selflessness and generosity will long be remembered by all who love her,” her family shared. “She has taken care of Paul through numerous surgeries and hospitalizations, and she took care of Heidi through her four bouts of cancer. During her most recent bout in late 2021 and early 2022 Janet found the energy to drive Heidi back and forth to long days of treatment at City of Hope and pushed her wheelchair throughout the huge facility. We didn’t know at the time that she was already starting to feel the effects of her own cancer.”

She died September 13 at the age of 82 after a short and hard fought battle with advanced metastatic cancer.

A celebration of life and a reception will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, September 25 at First Baptist Church of Claremont, 472 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont CA, 91711.

For those who would like to honor Janet, three of her favorite charities were The Jesus Film Project at jesusfilm.org/give; Save the Children at savethechildren.org; and the Inland Valley Humane Society at ivhsspca.org.

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