NEW KENT — The drowning victim of a boating mishap Sunday on the Pamunkey River was found Tuesday morning.
The New Kent Sheriff's Office reported that the body of William G. Hodges, 68, of Providence Forge was recovered by New Kent Fire-Rescue personnel at about 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 2 on the eastern shore of the river, about 40 yards from where he was last seen alive.
According to friends, Hodges was a history fanatic and a wealth of information when it came to antiques.
“He was such a pleasure to be around and he was just so intelligent about so many historical items,” said Hodges' longtime friend Betsy Cox, of Ashland. “He especially loved 18th-century pieces, like prints.”
Cox said she met Hodges in 1972 at an antique store in Williamsburg where he was working.
“Antiques were his passion,” she said.
“He loved history, and loved to tell everyone about it,” echoed friend and accident eyewitness Martha Martin, of New Kent.
At the time of his death, Hodges, an Orange County native, lived in South Garden, an 18th-century New Kent County home on the Chickahominy River, and was serving as vice president of the New Kent Historical Society.
He had been meeting with the group about an upcoming event at Cumberland Plantation, off Cumberland Road in New Kent, said Martin, who is also a member of the historical society.
“We are working on an event in October that would help raise money to own the historic two-room schoolhouse near New Kent Elementary,” Martin said. “He was a big supporter of that effort.”
According to Martin, Hodges chose to take his boat to the water before the historical society meeting because of nice weather and easy river access.
“We had a meeting up at the house around 1 p.m. and had put the boat in around 12:30 or 12:45 p.m.,” Martin said. “He went to the boat house ... and the boat cut off.
“He started to take his shoes and socks off. He took his pants off and shirt off and the next thing you know, he was in the water with the rope swimming trying to pull the boat.”
Martin said that Hodges swam about a third of the way back before telling her that he couldn't make it. She told Hodges to hold onto the rope and that she would call 911.
“He was fairly close to the boat, went under, and I yelled at him. He came back up and went back under twice and that was it,” Martin said.
“I guess the current was too much for him.”
An emergency call was made at approximately 1:10 p.m. and the first New Kent Sheriff's Office member arrived about seven minutes later.
Units from the following agencies were on scene: New Kent Sheriff's Office, New Kent Fire-Rescue, West Point Fire and Rescue, Henrico Fire, Virginia State Police and the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries. Crews searched by boat and aircraft Sunday until the evening. Several agencies returned Monday to continue the search, coordinated by New Kent Fire-Rescue personnel. The search consisted of multi-agency resources boats, divers, side scan sonar and aircraft, McLaughlin reported Monday.
According to New Kent Sheriff's Office Lt. J.L. Hamby, the crews were searching Monday 1 1/2 miles on each side from where Hodges was last seen. He also said Hodges had last been seen in 47-foot-deep water.
Hodges' death came as a surprise to many family and friends.
“I'm still in shock,” said Cox. “I was going to call him next week about some old books I bought.”
“It's terribly horrible to hear about this,” echoed Byron Holmes, of Porter Realty Co. Inc. Holmes said he worked with Hodges on acquiring historical properties.
Vincent Funeral Home will be handling the funeral arrangements, which had not been made as of Tuesday afternoon.
A. Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.