Tragedy ruins couple's dream life on sunshine isle of Cyprus
They had started a new chapter in their lives in an idyllic destination bringing happiness to a new family of devoted students.
Popular teacher and passionate historian Graham Hodgson dreamed of setting up home in Cyprus with his wife Paula.
Since his retirement three years ago, the couple, from Greenbank Gardens, Wordsley, had jetted out for extended stays in the Mediterranean.
They joined volunteers from a church and university working in northern Cyprus to support and encourage international students living there.
But all of the couple's dreams have been shattered by tragedy, after Mr Hodgson was killed in a car crash.
Mr Hodgson, aged 58, died when the car he was driving was struck from behind.
And today his family paid tribute to him, describing him as a 'true character' of great integrity who would do anything to help anyone.
Mr Hodgson had been helping his neighbour to pick up his son from Larnaca airport and bring them both home to Iskele when the tragic accident happened on November 27.
Police are still investigating the cause of the collision as his devastated loved ones battle to come to terms with his untimely death. His youngest daughter Lorna said: "We are all still in shock but we can take comfort in our faith and we are going to celebrate his life as reward for all his hard work on Earth." Mr Hodgson had moved with his family as a young boy from Wallasey, Merseyside, to the Black Country.
His fascination with history, and in particular the First and Second World Wars, led him to pursue a teaching career.
Mr Hodgson met his bride-to-be Paula while she was working at Dudley Leisure Centre. They married on October 23, 1982 at St Andrew's Church, Wall Heath.
As a treat on reaching their 30th anniversary in 2012 they went paragliding over the beautiful mountain ranges on the north of Cyprus.
Mr Hodgson had spent much of his life investing in his local community and bringing the rich heritage of the area to life.
He taught in primary schools in the Dudley borough for 33 years, more than 20 of which were spent at Netherbrook Primary School, in Netherton.
During his spare time he was a keen historian and was well known in the area for leading a campaign to achieve recognition for a dishonoured First World War soldier.
Private Joseph Bateman was executed for desertion by the firing squad in 1917 and due to the circumstances had never been placed on Wordsley's war memorial.
But thanks to Mr Hodgson's persistence, and documenting of his life, the private's name was inscribed. He was even able to show the dedication to Pte Bateman's grand-daughter Judith Lampitt in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in High Street. So enthralled by his seven years of research, Mr Hodgson put pen to paper and wrote a novel based on Pte Bateman and bringing justice to his name – which his family hope to one day have published in his honour.
"He was so passionate about history and he spent years working on Private Bateman as it really struck a chord with him," said Lorna. "He was a gentleman. A humble man of great integrity who would do anything for anybody."
She said that while in Cyprus, he assisted the students with their English while his wife would teach them to swim. "Both retired teachers, they had ambitions of making a permanent move to the country, where they had made many, many friends," she said.
They have three children – Emma, 29, Ben, 27 and Lorna, 25 – who joined their mother in Cyprus in the aftermath of the accident.
Mr Hodgson's funeral will take place at Calvary Church, Stallings Lane, Kingswinford, where he had faithfully attended for more than 15 years. It will be held on Thursday at 2pm.
All will be greatly welcomed by the family and any donations towards the ongoing work with students in Cyprus can be made via the funeral directors J T Brookes & Co.
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