A carved wooden eagle, standing nearly a metre and a half tall, now sits perched atop a maple stump in the front yard of 54 Moore Ave. in Winnipeg’s St. Vital neighbourhood.
Up until a couple years ago, Georgie Hodges, now age 100, could often be seen working in the garden of that home, pulling weeds and tending to her flower boxes.
Until she moved into a personal care home, she was something of a fixture in the neighbourhood — and now Georgie’s neighbours on Moore Avenue have found a way to make sure her legacy lives on.
“An eagle represents strength and resilience, and that was Georgie” said Martha Reimer, whose home is two doors down from where Georgie lived.
“Her character was one of strength and resilience. She lived through lots of things.”
Reimer and her husband bought Georgie’s home after she moved, and worked to preserve its history before renting it out.
That included commissioning the sculpture to honour their former neighbour.
“She didn’t have children, and I didn’t want her life to just disappear,” said Reimer.
‘St. Vital was their soul’
Georgiana Hodges, known as Georgie to her friends and neighbours, lived in the Moore Avenue house, which her father built in 1924, from the age of two until she moved into the care home.
Reimer and her husband met Georgie eight years ago, when the couple moved to the area. The neighbours struck up a friendship.
Reimer says she and her husband enjoyed hearing the older woman’s stories about the neighbourhood in different times — “how everybody worked together and played together,” she said.
“It sounded like such an idyllic life — the days we long for.”
New homes were built over the years, and fences went up between neighbours, Reimer said. A canal where Georgie and her sister played as kids became Dunkirk Drive.
Longtime friend Jill Patrick now acts as a caregiver for Georgie, who is living with dementia. Patrick first met her through Georgie’s sister more than 40 years ago. They remained friends over those decades.
She heard the stories about how Georgie and her mother sold raspberries from their garden during the Great Depression and how her dad fixed up the home after the flood of 1950 swamped the house, with the water reaching the window box planters.
Patrick says Georgie also recalled the days of Winnipeg’s electric streetcars that carried her downtown to her job at Great-West Life.
“Georgie was an extremely independent woman,” Patrick said. She lived in the home with her sister June for many years after their parents passed away.
“They wouldn’t live anywhere else. St. Vital was their soul,” said Patrick.
“She would talk about walking up Moore [Avenue] … up to St. Mary’s Road, and then there was all the stores there that you would ever need.”
Georgie doesn’t know the home has been sold, Patrick said — only that it’s being looked after. She also doesn’t know about the eagle carving.
But “Georgie would be very humbled by this,” said Patrick. “She would be very delighted that somebody would think to do this for her.”
Carved into history
The Reimers initially contacted wood sculptor Lucas Kost with a plan to turn an old maple stump in Georgie’s front yard into a carving.
That plan changed when Kost discovered the wood had been eaten away by ants.
But an old oak across the street had recently been cut down, so the Reimers arranged to have a chunk of it brought to their yard, where Kost transformed it into a work of art.
“She would have seen that tree every single day,” said Reimer.
Kost spent weeks carving the eagle and ensuring it fit seamlessly onto the stump in Georgie’s yard.
“All I can ask for as an artist is to have the opportunity to make something that’s really meaningful to someone else. That’s what it’s all about for me,” he said.
“It’s a rare opportunity to get a chance to have one of my pieces in such a great viewing spot for the public,” said Kost, 26, who has been carving since he was 10 and plans to head to Italy in October to further study the craft.
Reimer said the majestic bird has caught the eye of many in the neighborhood, with people stopping by to ask about it and learning about Georgie.
“I was able to tell them the story of why this is here, and they were just like, ‘That’s so awesome,'” said Reimer.
The Reimers are thinking about adding a plaque to the tree so that people can read about the woman who inspired the carving.
Georgie may never get the chance to see the sculpture in person, Patrick said.
But when the time comes, she hopes a drive-by can be part of any memorial or funeral plans.
“When … [she] leaves us, we will drive Georgie past this house one more time.”
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