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Melville Thomas Hodder, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, died peacefully on November 7, at age 84, after a long illness, with Lissa, his wife of 63 years, by his side, and surrounded by the love of his family and friends. Mel lived the final stage of his life with humor, grace, and deep gratitude - most especially for Lissa, his four “chickadees,” and twelve treasured grandchildren. He lived an abundant life with a twinkling eye, an easy laugh and a love of adventure.
Mel was a Boston boy. He bragged that from his office on 28 State Street he could see every place he had lived, worked and attended school, from the dogwoods of Fresh Pond Lane- where he and Lissa lived for 60 years- to the banks of the Charles River, the dome of Winthrop House, and the towers of Boston’s financial district. Mel was raised in Belmont by his parents Edwin James and Rora Melville Hodder, with his older brother Edwin, surrounded by doting aunts, uncles and cousins.
Mel’s years at Browne & Nichols School were formative; introducing him to crew, hockey, sailing, literature, art and the music he cherished all the rest of his life. He served as co-captain of the hockey team and the famously undefeated B&N football team of underdogs in 1954 and ‘55. Mel forged relationships with mentors whose advice and ethical leadership would help guide him through adulthood. Mel later advocated for coeducation, and as a longtime member of the Boards of Trustees of both Browne & Nichols and the Buckingham schools, he helped to navigate the successful merger in 1974. In summers, Mel delighted in simply “messing about in boats”, making his way to the Northeast Harbor Fleet on Mount Desert Island in Maine, where he taught sailing and, at age 20, served as the Secretary, discovering his knack for responsibility and competition. His Maine summers in the late-1950s are the stuff of family legend. He won the heart of the beautiful and brilliant Lissa Owens of Bar Harbor, who noticed his jubilant laugh from across the room. Over their years together, Lissa and Mel called Maine their second home, enjoying their extended family, friends and the profound beauty of MDI. Mel’s winters were all about skiing. Self-taught as a young adult, he was a graceful and technically perfect skier, so committed to the sport that he drove his family to Vermont most winter weekends for almost 50 years, and skied into his 8 th decade.
Mel attended Harvard College and Harvard Business School. As an undergraduate, Mel could be found early mornings at the Newell Boathouse, (rowing in the victorious 1959 Harvard Henley eight), perfecting his wrist shot in Watson rink, fraternizing at the Fly Club and reciting odes in English class. He was a founder of the Michael C Rockefeller Fellowship established in honor of his freshman roommate, and he remained involved with and dedicated to its ever-growing but tight-knit community of adventurers. He married Elizabeth Davis Owens (Lissa) in Bar Harbor in 1960. After graduating from HBS, Mel joined his father at brokerage firm Hayden Stone & Co in Boston, where he would work – under an ever-changing corporate name - for more than 60 years until his recent retirement from Morgan Stanley as a Senior Vice President. A successful institutional salesman and wealth manager, Mel was known in the Boston financial community for his principled approach to investments for his clients. He worked late in the evenings poring over financial reports, reading world news, listening to opera, and pausing only for quick perusals of Powder magazine, or a glimpse at the Red Sox score. He was devoted to his many long-term clients, his colleagues, and upholding the rigorous standards of professionalism he inherited from his father. Mel would discuss the market with young and old alike and continued to do so with enthusiasm and insight until the very end.
Mel was kind, generous of spirit and a community builder. He engaged neighbors, friends and often innocent bystanders in shared stories of life and its many layers. An instructor to his core, he rarely missed an opportunity to edify anyone within earshot, and would readily offer a contrarian perspective. Mel was baptized into the Episcopal Church as an adult, and faithfully served as a parishioner and lay- leader at Christ Church, Cambridge. In the tumultuous 1970s, he rose to speak from the pulpit about the insidious destructive power of racism in the church, social and political institutions, and the community, referring to the “sin of exclusion”. He acted as financial advisor to the national Episcopal Church for decades, serving as chair of the Episcopal Church’s Committee on Shareholder Responsibility, where he helped pave the way for divestment in the face of apartheid in South Africa.
Mel served his community generously as a longtime trustee at the Hayden Recreation Center in Lexington, and on the board of directors of the Cambridge Community Foundation where he chaired the finance committee. Mel’s eclectic eye and passion for art and aspiring artists lasted a lifetime. He served as a trustee for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Boston’s MFA (now part of Tufts University), mentoring and sponsoring art students.
Mel’s love of family was abounding and abiding. A devoted son, he and Lissa raised four lively and accomplished children. Mel’s favorite of many hats was that of grandfather; “Poppy” shared his
irrepressible affinity for all things active, his irreverent stories, his passion for politics, and his love of ice-cream with his twelve grandchildren. He was a loyal friend to many, actively attending to his friendships old and new.
Mel approached life by doing. Whether skiing down “Willoughby” at Burke Mountain, sailing out the Western Way or reading by the fire with Lissa, Mel loved life in its richest and most simple forms. Mel is survived by wife Lissa, daughter Elizabeth Hodder Corbus and husband Clay Corbus of San Francisco, CA and their children Josiah, Ellie and James; daughter Lucy Hodder and husband Rob Thomson of Hopkinton, NH, and their children Andrew and Rebecca; daughter Sarah Hodder and husband Peter Allen of Durham, NC, and their children Charles, Edwin James and Harris; and son Sam Hodder and wife Kendra Gaither Hodder of Orinda, CA, and their children Henry, Ben, Oscar and Wells, and many close in-laws, nieces and nephews.
A memorial service and celebration of Melville’s life will be held at Christ Church, Cambridge, Zero Garden Street, Cambridge, MA, on Saturday, January 13 at 11 o’clock. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Cambridge Community Foundation, 99 Bishop Allen Drive, Cambridge, MA 02139.