the lilies, how they grow: They toil not; They spin
not: And yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed
like one of these. If God so clothe the grass...Shall
he not much more clothe you.
The verse from Luke meant much to Gisela Wutzke
Hodges, so much that she set her hand to fashion it
into a needlework frame of flowers and butterflies
some 15 years ago, when muslin cloth was her canvas,
her palette the multi-colored threads she wove in
Her own life was woven from a complexity of threads
that stretched as far away as the German homeland from
which she had emigrated with her parents as a baby in
1951, and as near as the girl she longed to become as
she grew up, always different from the others girls at
As her needle wove its magic into the cross-stitched
pattern, her own daughter, Angela, at about six years
old, was completely American. It seemed the design was
complete, the die recast. It was only in later years
Gisela would fully appreciate the sacrifices of her
hardworking immigrant parents.
Her first seven years in North America were spent in
Canada, where her younger sister was born, making
Gisela the middle of three sisters. Her dolls as well
as her clothes were always hand-me-downs, never mind
her mother put heart and soul into cleaning them up as
good as new. The dolls always came with complete
wardrobes fashioned by her mother's skillful hands.
Her father's talents came into play as well, his
woodwork the basis for a puppet stage and baby beds.
"Lots of creativity and a lot of love went into that,
and when I think back, it's more precious," says
Gisela. "With Dad's workshop and Mom's material
drawer, we could be as creative as we wanted to be."
When she was seven, the family relocated to Miami, a
drastic move made possible by the friendship her
father forged with his first supervisor in Canada.
Gisela's dilemma intensified; in their Canadian
neighborhood there had been many German immigrants.
"I couldn't even trade lunches," she laments from her
cozy country home in Huntingdon, recalling the salami
and cream cheese on rye sandwiches that set her
cuisine apart from others who brought lunches to
She wore the long braids of a German schoolgirl until
she 12, finally insisting they be cut off before
starting junior high school.
"No matter what, I was different and my name gave me
away," she continues, recounting the struggle of being
a child of immigrants. "You want so much to be like
everyone else, and your parents don't want you to lose
the culture. It's a tug-of-war. They felt rejected,
although you're not really rejecting their values, you
just want to become like everyone else. Now I cherish
some of the cultural things."
Gisela studied secretarial science at Brevard
Community College in Florida and worked for a time
before heading, at the age of 23, to Murray, Kentucky,
where her parents had retired on a farm outside the
city, near the same friends who had sponsored the
family in their move from Canada.
Her plan was to work in Paducah; however, her father
had other ideas, begging her to apply for a position
at the new Fisher-Price factory in town.
She agreed to visit the plant, though her attitude
soured when she discovered she would spend hours
interviewing with different managers for a succession
of available positions. By the time she reached the
final interview with inventory control manager Randy
Hodges, she could not have cared less if any of those
with whom she had interviewed offered her a job.
"He didn't like me at first, I had an attitude," she
laughs, regarding her first meeting with her husband.
"He was last of about five interviews and I just
flopped down in the chair."
Luckily she had "been on her best behavior" for her
first interview with the personnel manager who hired
She soon realized Randy, four years her senior, was
not only a "good catch", he was handsome to boot. The
couple married July 3, 1976, whereupon they followed
friends to Virginia. A couple of years later they were
home for Christmas when Randy applied and was accepted
for a position at Emerson Electric Co. in Paris. The
company wanted him to report for work in just two
"It was a big decision," said Gisela. "We prayed about
it and felt like God wanted us back here."
Before the two weeks was up, the couple had sold their
home in Virginia and were ready to move to Paris,
where they remained for the next 20 years before
"finally settling down" in Huntingdon. During the
interim, Randy went to work with the Noma Corporation
in McKenzie and Gisela worked at Republic as credit
manager before switching to part time work with the
adult education and literacy program. Along the way,
the couple acquired rental properties that allowed
them to retire from public work at an early age.
The two have made a sanctuary of their virtually
country home, nestled on the edge of town among
towering pines and wooded corners that have become
new, favored canvases for Gisela's creativity.
"It's a nice, restful place to be, kind of like
country living but not far from town," she says of the
haven the two have fashioned together. "We're a good
team," she continues, describing projects she's
designed and Randy has built over time, including a
multilevel deck built a couple of years ago that
meshes nicely with the new terraced landscaping that
is their latest project.
"My parents were great gardeners," she relates, giving
credit for her artistic gardening that would do any
home and gardening magazine proud. Flower gardens that
make the best use of their natural surroundings spill
from the lawn as though nurtured by Mother Nature's
own hand. Even a formerly barren space takes on new
life with a rose-trellised, rustic gazebo situated
over earth tiled with pine needles and edged with ivy.
Inside their home, comparable creativity abounds in
bright living areas accented with Gisela's special
touches in her own custom-designed curtains, walls
spackled in one-of-a-kind designs of her own making
and the needlework that was her original expression of
"I love to curl up and read," she relates, explaining
the "little restful areas" that add character to the
den that overlooks the back yard.
Gisela stresses, "your home reflects who you are," but
says creative homemaking doesn't have to be expensive.
She points out framed art she created by simply
spray-painting around a fern, an example of what she
calls "design on a dime."
"I've done it out of necessity, just to see if I could
do it; putting something together with nothing," she
says, allowing that she gets ideas from Southern
Living and other magazines.
"Mother didn't have much hope for me," she continues,
laughing at the irony as she recognizes the changes in
her own daughter, who was married last June to Jason
Smith of Cordova. "That's your hope, that they come
back someday and appreciate the good things they had.
She's done that and that makes me proud. She's my good
friend now, too. She calls me Martha Stewart," she
grins, apparently pleased at the comparison as well as
her new relationship with her adult daughter.
About ten years ago, Gisela explored another side of
her artistry when she signed up for art classes under
Norma Dennison at Jackson State Community College, a
venture that led her into various artistic media
including water color, oils and pastels.
Despite her obvious talent that ranges from pen and
ink architectural conceptions to still life paintings
and portraits, Gisela insists she's not an artist.
"I'm too much left-brained to be an artist," she
declares, while admitting she can draw and paint what
she can see. "I'm more of a draftsman person like
The left brain/right brain theory supposes
left-brained persons "focus on logical thinking,
analysis, and accuracy" while right-brained people
"focus on aesthetics, feeling, and creativity."
Gisela's creativity isn't limited to the tangible
arts. She's a member of the Huntingdon First Baptist
Church drama team, a group known for their
interpretive skits as well as dinner theatre
"The Bible encourages me a lot," says Gisela. She also
teaches Sunday School, Wednesday night Bible classes,
is involved in Vacation Bible School and senior adult
ministry as well as taking part in mission work both
stateside and, two years ago, in India.
She's a member of the Booklovers Club, Junior Women's
Club, and various other community endeavors including
her pet projects, Habitat for Humanity and the
Huntingdon Beautification Committee.
"I just want to live life to the fullest and try to do
new things before I get too old. I don't mind being
53, I just mind that it got here too quickly," she
says, putting her statement into perspective. "There's
so much to do out there in the community. I just want
to live for the Lord, live for my community and my
family, use my talents and gifts and have fun; to
enjoy life and have fun exploring new things. There's
lots of things I haven't done yet.