If anyone in Forsyth County knows the family of Eugene H. Hodges, officials with the University of Alabama are trying to contact them to talk about a radio struck by a meteorite.
Mary Beth Prondzinski, collections manager with the Alabama Museum of Natural History on the university’s campus, said the museum is searching for family members of the late Eugene Hodges, the owner of a radio of struck by a meteorite in the 1950s that is on display.
“The radio is part of an event that occurred here in Alabama back in 1954,” she said. “It was actually called the Sylacauga Meteorite Event. It fell in Sylacauga, Alabama, and it went through somebody’s home and struck the radio that we currently have on exhibit, which hit the woman who lived in the house.”
The woman struck by the meteorite was Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges, then-wife of Eugene Hodges.
“It became an overnight sensation because she was the first person to have ever been struck by a meteorite,” Prondzinski said.
Ann Hodges was featured in Life Magazine and the TV show “I’ve Got a Secret” and had a legal battle with her landlord over ownership of the meteorite. Ann Hodges sold the meteorite to the museum in 1955, where it has been since.
The radio that was struck came to the museum 50 years later in 2005 as a loan from Eugene Hodges.
“We’ve had the loan since 2005. Of course, since 2005, staff has changed here at the university,” Prondzinski said. “We were under the impression that the radio was owned by the museum and it was an acquisition, but when I went to the file to see if we had a number associated with it, I saw there wasn’t a file for it.”
Prondzinski said the couple divorced and Eugene Hodges moved to Georgia before passing in 2012.
“They divorced after several years,” Prondzinski said, “saying that the incident of the meteorite was probably influential in their parting of ways.”
She said Eugene Hodges had previously had an address in Forsyth County and two in Ellijay and the museum sent letters to all three locations.
After receiving the Ellijay letters were returned to the sender and no response from the Forsyth letter, Prondzinski placed a legal ad in the Forsyth County News in hope that someone in the county would know the family. Prondzinski said Eugene Hodges has a son by the same name.
“I thought, ‘Well maybe there is somebody there, some relation or something that retrieved that letter and would respond to it,’” she said. “That’s when we decided we would do due diligence and print a public notice to try to contact Mr. Hodges or one of his descendants and see if we can actually either strike up a bargain or get him to donate the radio to the museum.”
While Alabama does not have rules for abandoned property, Prondzinski said the museum was instead using an archive and history policy, which requires reaching out to previous addresses of the owner and a release at the location of the museum to see if any locals have information.
“We are going to give it 90 days after publication,” she said, “and if nobody comes forward and says I know where Eugene is or I am Eugene, then we will be able to acquire the radio and consider it one of our possessions here at the museum.”