David Hodgins, known as Hodge while he lived in Clarendon, was knighted in an official ceremony in Ottawa for his 24 years of volunteer work with the St. John Ambulance on June 18, 2022.
Hodgins received the honour after his long service on the various boards of St. John Ambulance across the county.
Hodgins traced the origins of his knighthood and his other successes back to his time in Clarendon and Shawville. He moved to Clarendon from Ottawa to live with Lorna and Bob Younge on their farm when he was 12 years-old.
“In retrospect, it was this farm-based upbringing by two amazing people that ensured my success in life,” said Hodgins. “In the absence of this amazing experience, I would likely have ended up in a bad place.”
“He kind of grew up as my big brother,” said Rick Younge, Bob and Lorna’s son, who was born right around the time Hodgins moved onto the farm. “He wasn’t officially adopted by my dad, but my parents raised him.”
“They did a lot for me as a troubled child,” said Hodgins. “They got me on the straight and narrow and it was a great upbringing.”
“He needed to be kept in line and so they kept him in line,” said Younge. “And they let him learn to become a leader and to think on his own and to respect others. It seems to be what all parents did at that time. It was very important to respect others and to become community leaders.”
Hodgins was related to the Younges through his grandmother, Annie Laurie Young (the e at the end of the name of that branch of the Younge was only added after Melvin Younge, Bob’s father, submitted some paperwork and it came back with the e on the end), who was Bob Younge’s great Aunt. Annie Laurie was married to Gerald Hodgins, David’s grandfather.
Hodgins also mentioned the importance of Melvin, Kay, Orla and Janet Younge, who all reached out to him and played important roles in raising him.
During his time in Clarendon, Hodgins attended Pontiac High School and did chores on Bob and Lorna’s farm.
“They had close to 50 head of cattle and I did most of the milking, before school and after school,” said Hodgins. He also drove milk trucks in Shawville for a period of time.
Hodgins moved to Thompson, Manitoba in 1976 to “make it rich” in the mines and then joined the local fire department.
Hodgins described that while working in the mines there were two kinds of people you could fall in with. The first are the miners that would spend all their free time and money at the bar and the second were miners that were there to raise their family and contribute to the community.
Hodgins wanted to be a part of the latter group.
“I knew volunteer firefighters in Shawville and Clarendon, they were good solid people in the community, ‘’ said Hodgins.
Within about 6 months of serving as a volunteer fighter in the Thompson fire service, a full-time position opened up and Hodgins decided that was what he was going to pursue as a career.
“My dad always said that he wanted to wear a uniform, which seemed to be very important to him,” said Younge.
“Mainly I was hired because they knew I could drive a truck and they knew I could operate all the equipment,” said Hodgins. “I wasn’t afraid to get dirty. So, it was my farm upbringing that really ensured my hiring for a full-time position in the Thompson Fire Department.”
Hodgins said that after becoming a full-time member of the Thompson Fire Department that he never stopped pursuing his education to advance in his career.
After serving in Thompson, Hodgins went on to be the fire chief for London, Ontario, the fire commissioner for British Columbia and helped found the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.
Hodgins joined the St. John Ambulance in 1998 when he was the Fire Chief in London and subsequently went on to serve on boards in British Columbia and Alberta as he moved around for work.
St. John Ambulance has its origins in the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, which was a medieval Christian military order founded during the crusades. The order was known for running hospitals for pilgrims to the holy land.
The modern Order of St. John was chartered in 1888 by Queen Victoria.
Hodgins had his name submitted to the Queen to receive the knighthood after helping the British Columbia and Yukon branch of St. John Ambulance get back on track after becoming the head of the board in 2020.
“We weren’t doing very well to be honest, there were some significant financial challenges,” said Hodgins.
With the help of other board members who had careers in finance, Hodgins managed to resolve the financial state and allowed it to rejoin the national organization.
The Order of St. John Ambulance has ranks, going from member, to officer, to commander and finally to knight. Hodgins was only an officer when he received knighthood, meaning he effectively jumped a rank.
“London (UK) kind of said, well, wait a minute, you’re moving this individual up to knight and not to the commander and why is that? So, the Chancellor [head of the national order] explained how the hard work I had done as chair to save British Columbia Yukon St. John Ambulance and so that’s why it was accepted,” explained Hodgins.
Hodgins received his knighthood in a ceremony presided over by the Senate and Governor General Mary Simon, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada. As tradition, during the ceremony Hodgins was touched on the shoulder three times with a sword.
“It’s a tremendous honour when you think about all the good work St. John Ambulance does,” said Hodgins. “I mean, obviously we’ve got a solid history of helping mankind, but now it’s so many ways we’re involved in so many communities. Through first aid training, the therapy dog program, amazing success. We’re helping now in areas of mental health. We’re working with the federal government on programs and the provincial government on programs so it’s really expanded and we owe all of this to volunteers.”
Now that he is a knight, Hodgins gets the right to add the acronym KStJ (Knight of Justice) to his signature and he gets to create heraldry for his family.
“I will work with the Heraldic Authority artists to create a coat of arms with a focus on my dairy farm upbringing, a focus on my career in fire, rescue, emergency management and disaster services and acknowledging my volunteer work with St. John Ambulance,” wrote Hodgins on what he plans to use as his heraldry.
This knighthood is joined by various other awards that Hodgins has received over the course of his career, which include:
The Federal Exemplary Service Medal 30 year Service Award in 2008, the Alberta Emergency Services Medal in 2005, the City of London Lawson Community Service Award 2003, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2002, the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Program Award of Excellence in 2002, the Federal Government Volunteer Service Award in 2001, the Federal Exemplary Service Medal in 1999 and Award for Bravery in 1983.
Despite all the awards, Hodgins remained humble, attributing his success back to how he was raised by Bob and Lorna.
“You know it takes a village to raise a child, and in my case it was a village of Younge’s and others that raised me,” said Hodgins.
“[The kinghood] means a lot to me and my family too because like I say he’s kind of grown up like a brother of mine. That’s why I’m a Clarendon counselor and was president of the fair. It was partly because of him and partly because of my parents,” concluded Rick Younge about Hodgins.
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