Nelsa M. Hodgson, 91, opera singer and longtime animal-rights activist

August 25, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Nelsa M. Hodgson, an animal-rights activist who sang with the Baltimore Opera Company chorus for 40 years, died of cancer Aug. 18 at her Timonium home. She was 91.

She was born Nelsa Mary Foster in Queens, N.Y., raised in Baltimore and Annapolis, and graduated from Arundel High School in 1931.

She worked as a secretary for a Baltimore stock brokerage firm, and from 1950 to 1960, was secretary-treasurer of a family roofing business.

A soprano, Mrs. Hodgson sang with the opera chorus from 1940 to 1980. She was a soloist at Waverly Presbyterian Church for 25 years, and performed with choirs at Christ Episcopal Church and Lovely Lane United Methodist Church.

Mrs. Hodgson was a volunteer docent from 1978 to 2000 at what is now the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, where she became interested in wildlife and habitat conservation. She traveled to Canada to study polar bears, and visited the Amazon rain forest and Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Mrs. Hodgson completed three trips to Africa, where she observed mountain gorillas in Tanzania and Rwanda, and studied animals including elephants and lions in Kenya.

"She was in her 80s when she made her final trip to Africa," said her son, Dudley F.B. "Butch" Hodgson of Cockeysville, a former FBI agent, who added that roadside bandits fired at her tour van. "One of the bullets hit the wheel near where she was sitting. She said the incident was the highlight of the trip."

Mrs. Hodgson was an outspoken animal-rights activist.

"I got a call one day that my mother had been arrested and taken to the police station while demonstrating outside of Mano Swartz, the furrier," her son said.

The former longtime Roland Park resident was married in 1947 to Milton Vidal Hodgson, a church organist, choirmaster and music director for 30 years at WMAR-TV. He died in 1981.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, 6500 York Road.

Mrs. Hodgson is also survived by a daughter, Eileen B. Gilliland of Towson; two brothers, Dudley Foster of Baltimore and Donald Foster of Sierra Vista, Ariz.; a sister, June Daue of Baltimore; and a grandson.

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