Mae Bridgeforth Melendez Hodge was born in Athens, Alabama, on October 4, 1918, the youngest of seven children to Lallie Bedingfield Bridgeforth and William S. Bridgeforth. Her siblings Yancy, Marvin “Curtis”, William “Bill”, George Vivian White and Susie Evans preceded her in death.
Melendez Hodge’s family moved from Athens to Birmingham, Alabama, following the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) expansion, where she received her early education. In 1936 she moved to Chicago after completing a year at Alabama State University.
In 1942 she married Stanis S. Melendez, M.D. to that union Carmen Melendez Rhinehart and William S. Melendez were born.
Melendez Hodge continued her education and received her BA in Primary Education from Chicago State University (Chicago Teacher’s College) and later her Master’s Degree from LaVerne University.
Following her divorce from Dr. Melendez, she met and married attorney Woodrow W. Hodge; to that union Donna Renee Hodge was born. For 42 years until his death in 1994, she and Woodrow built a life of entrepreneurship and love.
Melendez Hodge taught primary education in Chinatown, Woodlawn, Englewood and Hyde Park where she taught at Kozminski Elementary School for over 30 years.
She worked alongside her beloved brother Bill rehabbing homes throughout the city, owning several in Hyde Park.
Melendez Hodge, who was a resident of Hyde Park for over 50 years, was active in politics, assisting attorney Claude Holman in being elected alderman of the 4th Ward and her brother in law, Judge William Sylvester White, throughout his political career. She was most proud of helping Harold Washington become elected the first black mayor of Chicago and supporting her cherished son-in-law Vernon M. Rhinehart in his quest for a judgeship.
She took great pride in her civic work with NAACP, receiving “The Most Distinguished Woman Award” in 1969 for raising the most money for the organization.
Throughout the years, she along with her sister George, actively raised money for the Harriet Harris YWCA.
Her dedication to community and philanthropic causes were very close to her heart. She served as president of the South Side Community Art Center and later, along with a group of dedicated members including her sister George brought First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to the center.
Melendez Hodge was a member of the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society CHASI, charter member of the Jet Set (later becoming the Chicago Chapter of the National Smart Set), a charter member of the Windy City Links, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, The Club bridge club and The Crochet Club. An opera singer in her own right, Melendez Hodge continued her love of the Opera by working with the Bravo Chapter of Lyric Opera and often attending operatic performances with longtime family friend, Dr. Jerome Lee, Jr.
Her love of gardening was evident as she would host everyone in her Hyde Park garden after the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference Garden Walk, of which she was a member.
She and her sister George hosted celebrities in her home, including Sammy Davis Jr., Ozzie Davis and Ruby Dee.
Mae was an avid worldwide traveler who left her mark on six of the seven continents where she enjoyed the history, culture, food and music of various countries. In her later years, she enjoyed traveling with her daughters, leaving her indelible smile and bringing a little bit of the culture back with her.
She was a devoted wife and mother as well as a mentor and role model. Her children were her heart. She leaves to celebrate a life well lived her loving and devoted children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and a host of family and friends.
She always looked forward to family gatherings and was always ready to have a “party.”
She enjoyed life to its fullest, leaving no stone unturned, often creating her own stone to turn. Eternally positive, youthful and equally driven, she had a spirit and presence that filled the room. A strong believer of faith and prayer, although she was not an active member of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church, she considered it her home church.
The twinkle in her eye, infectious smile and belief in loving and living life to its fullest will remain in our hearts forever.
Her services will be held at Unity Funeral Parlor, 4114 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60653
Friday, Dec. 8
Lie in State 2 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 9
Unity Funeral Parlor, Inc.
Wake 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Funeral 11 a.m. – Noon