Scott Hodge loved to play and to create art.
As an adult, his creative spirit and playful nature brought joy to his family, co-workers and children at the Mauzy School in Alamo, where he worked as an instructional assistant with special education students.
After he died last year, at age 48, due to complications related to disabilities and the flu, Hodge's family wanted to donate memorials in his honor to the school, as well as to the Shadelands Preschool in Concord, which he attended as a young boy.
His mother, sisters, family friends, former teachers and co-workers gathered Tuesday in Alamo and Wednesday in Concord to dedicate the artistic memorials, noting that Hodge would have turned 50 this week.
"He was a plugger-awayer," said his sister, Jenni Hodge, as she admired the colorful new murals created at Shadelands Preschool, which span several walls and include images of activities her brother loved, as well as two panels with young boys who are meant to be Scott.
"He got his A.A. degree from DVC (Diablo Valley College), and that was a major hurdle. This was a kid who wasn't supposed to last as long as he did. He loved animals. He loved kids. He was a professional player, I think."
Scott Hodge was born Nov. 13, 1962, with birth defects and later developed two brain tumors 10 years apart, said his mother, Betty Hodge, who taught at Shadelands and later became a special education administrator in the Mt. Diablo school district, before retiring.
"My Scott loved it here," she said. "When he passed, his sisters wanted to do something for the playground." The school staff suggested a mural like the one at the Robert Shearer Preschool on the Gregory Gardens Elementary campus in Pleasant Hill. So the Hodges contacted artist Kerry Broughton, and she met with them and the school's teachers to create whimsical paintings that integrate themes the students learn about, including transportation and seasons.
The murals have transformed drab walls into conversation starters for students, who gaze at the helicopter, airplane and fire truck on one wall, the jungle scene on a storage shed's walls, a snowman in winter, a scarecrow in a pumpkin patch, and a barnyard in a farm setting near the school entrance.
"One day, I put a blanket down and we had our picnic at the farm," said teacher Lynne Terril. "They love to talk about what they see."
Those who attended the dedication were also mesmerized by the mural's colorful details.
"That is supposed to be my Scott with the Dalmatian and black cat," Betty Hodge said, pointing to a boy in the farm scene. "The Dalmatian was Scott's best friend, and he had a couple of black cats."
At the Mauzy School, the family dedicated a memorial consisting of 72 hand-painted tiles that include flowers, hearts, butterflies and other uplifting images, along with messages such as "Miss You."
"Scott loved all the students," said Principal Claudia Ronaldson. "We ended up spending the entire summer doing the tiles because so many people wanted to participate."
A wall in the school lobby is adorned with a framed collage of Scott's paintings of flowers and abstract art. The adjoining wall features a memorial fountain resembling an abstract painting.
"It's something that Scott would have appreciated," Ronaldson said. "He was a very creative guy."
His mother is touched by the willingness of both schools to memorialize her son.
"It was very nice," she said. "Very tender."