June 13 marked the 10th year since the passing of one of “historic” Owosso’s most iconic and beloved adopted sons. George Warren Hoddy migrated to our community as an energetic, ambitious young engineer in 1935. With a strong penchant for civic-mindedness, he soon became embroiled in a foundering, ineffective local government and an economy drowning in the doldrums of Depression with enormous unemployment.
George had a life-long obsession for providing jobs, and that he did for many decades.
With his three brothers, Hoddy established Universal Electric, which soon became the largest employer in the county. Over the years, UE became a national leader in the manufacture of fractional horsepower motors that mechanized appliances and tools for millions of homes in the U.S. and abroad.
During World War II, the company provided millions of motors for military use, and received multiple commendations for their service. Post-war, UE mechanized many of the attractions at Disneyland, and was involved in the space program.
As the company evolved, George encountered presidents and world leaders like Great Britain’s Winston Churchill and India’s Mahatma Gandhi.
As a lieutenant in the Army, Mr. George, as he was affectionately known, was involved in the highly secret Manhattan Project that produced the atomic bomb.
It is difficult to name any of Owosso’s civic and civil organizations or projects in which Hoddy did not actively participate. As board president, he oversaw the first major expansion of Memorial Healthcare and the Owosso Public Schools, including the current high school.
He was involved with the Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement, the Historical Commission, the Ys and the Shiawassee Arts Council. He devoted more than a half century to the Boy Scouts.
Hoddy is given major credit for salvaging and restoring both the Shiawassee County Courthouse and the Gould House, as well as bringing Baker College to Owosso.
Although small in stature, Hoddy was a giant among men: a visionary, an innovator, an inventor with more than a dozen patents, a motivator and, most especially, a philanthropist — a citizen most worthy of remembrance.
As I look around our city, however, I am disappointed there is so little to commemorate this unparalleled life.
One such memorial was what Baker College designated as the Curwood-Hoddy House at M-52 and Williams Street. It was constructed as a residence for the author who, unfortunately, resided there only a short time. It was Hoddy who reclaimed the house in the late 1940s and restored its glory as a showpiece for visitors and business, but more significantly as a home for six adopted orphans. It was where George resided for more than 60 years until his death at 105.
Recently, the house was tastefully converted to a bed and breakfast by my friends, the Findleys. It remains a landmark. While my wishes for their success are sincere, I am disappointed the structure is now known only as the Curwood House.
I am pleased the commemorative boulder and plaque are at least visible from the parking lot.
I would urge the city fathers and Historical Commission to at least place a bronze plaque in front of the house like so many other such dwellings around town. A short distance away is a sign designating the birth place of Thomas E. Dewey, who, to my knowledge, did very little for Owosso.
John E. Morovitz