Ella Nora was born near Devine, Texas to Beatrice Ruby Nowlin Brown and Edgar Allen Brown. Ella Nora was the fourth of six children, and had six children of her own, making for a very large extended family which enriched her life immensely. Her family and her faith were foremost in her life, along with her passions for dancing and painting. From the rich trove of photos from her childhood throughout her life, her bright smile and sunny outlook shine through even during the tough times of growing up in the Great Depression and the tough health challenges of old age. She had a quick wit and the ability to arch an eyebrow and convey a range of meaning. She loved her life and everyone in it and was loved by all whose lives she touched.
As a girl, she won many dance contests around Devine, and in her retirement, she was part of the Happy Tappers tap dance group at Sun City Georgetown from age 70 through 85. The group performed regularly around Central Texas and even at Disney World. In her 40’s, Ella Nora discovered a new talent and passion when she took up oil painting. She became a prolific and accomplished artist and blessed her children and grandchildren with many beautiful paintings.
Her Christian faith was a pillar of Ella Nora’s life, starting with youth church camp at Alto Frio Baptist Encampment on the Frio River near Concan, Texas. As an adult, she went on numerous mission trips to Wyoming, Colorado and even Brazil with the First Baptist Church in Panhandle. She also served as Church Secretary from around 1980 to 1996, and worked with the Acteens group there, working with young girls from middle school through high school. Her volunteer efforts made positive impacts in many of those girls’ lives.
After graduation from Devine High School, Ella Nora went to work at Kelly Field Air Force Base in San Antonio, where she worked for five years. During this time, she met the love of her life, Lieutenant Mark Hodges, freshly returned from flying 40 combat missions in the South Pacific. They married in 1947 and began an adventure that saw them stationed at nine Air Force Bases all over the U.S. during the next 20 years, having six children along the way. Mark retired from the Air Force as a Lt. Colonel in 1966, and they built their dream home on their farm in Panhandle. She lived there until 1996 before moving to Sun City Georgetown after her husband passed away in 1993.
Ella Nora was also preceded in death by two of her children, Steven Mark Hodges and Susan Lorraine Hodges, and by her sisters Ruby Lorraine Hockensmith and Ruth Alene Meeks, and by her brothers Edgar Allen Brown and James Leslie Brown. Her younger brother Charlie Nowlin Brown still resides and ranches near Devine, Texas. Her father died of pneumonia when Ella Nora was just six years old, during the Great Depression, leaving her mother to raise the six children on her own. The tough times endured by the family only strengthened the bonds between them. Even in the throes of short-term memory loss and declining health, Ella Nora would ask about her brothers and sisters almost every day, and she never missed the annual family reunion, no matter the distance or what else was going on in her life.
Ella Nora is survived by her daughters, Cynthia of Ozark Mountian, Ark., Deborah Jeanne and husband Charlie Brown of Amarillo, and her sons, Glen Allen Hodges and wife Sara of Austin, and Kenneth Charles Hodges of Waco. Ella Nora is also survived by 14 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson, and many nieces and nephews.
A funeral service will be held at the First Baptist Church of Panhandle, at 710 Main Street at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020 with Dr. Steve Vernon officiating. The family will receive visitors on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Minton Chatwell Funeral Home at 510 Main Street in Panhandle.
Masks and social distancing are encouraged to minimize risk of transmission of the COVID virus.
Anyone wishing to leave condolences or share memories are encouraged to visit www.mintonchatwell.com.
Memorial donations in Ella Nora’s honor may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association at act.alz.org.