Those who planned Willy Hodgson’s funeral knew her life had touched so many people that the local Anglican church would not be able to hold all her mourners.
So the service was held at the larger Moose Jaw Alliance Church, with more than 400 people in attendance, including Saskatchewan’s lieutenant governor.
Ms. Hodgson, a member of the Plains Cree nation and a psychiatric nurse by training, served Saskatchewan as a social worker, rehabilitation co-ordinator and therapist and as an employment counsellor for Indian and Métis people, particularly women.
Christine Wilna Hodgson, or Willy as she was known, died Feb. 14 at Moose Jaw Union Hospital at age 67 after a long battle with cancer.
Her funeral was conducted by Rev. John Matheson and David Foley, a Salvation Army member who worked with Ms. Hodgson in Moose Jaw on housing issues. Relative Hector Ahenakew delivered the Lord’s Prayer in Cree.
Last year, Ms. Hodgson was awarded the Order of Canada, the country’s highest honour. She was also the recipient of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 1994 and a Women of Distinction Award from Moose Jaw for her work as a community mentor in 1998.
She worked with mentally and physically disabled people and served in recent years as a native elder and facilitator with the federal government as it worked on models for alternative dispute resolution processes with former students of residential schools.
A lifetime Anglican, Ms. Hodgson also served as chair of the national church’s Council for Native Ministries, the predecessor of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP).
As a community member of the Saskatchewan law society, she assisted the ACIP in its response to provincial law societies about the manner in which lawyers were soliciting former students of residential schools to initiate or join lawsuits. She was a member of 2001 General Synod at Waterloo, Ont., and was elected to the national eco-justice committee. She was unable to attend eco-justice meetings due to her illness.
She is survived by her husband Bill and their four children Billy, Dean, Heather and Fern as well as grandchildren.