In Memory of Donna V. Combra

ImageOnce again here at Hodges we have had the privilege of making a special plaque that has a very extraordinary story behind it. This time, however, the plaque is being dedicated to a woman’s life that was sadly taken too soon.

Donna V. Combra was married to Russ Combra and had two sons, Andrew and Brian. She was an elementary school teacher for 30 years of her life.  She began her teaching career at the Cluny School in Newport RI, then taught at the Hathaway School, Elmhurst School, and ended her career teaching the second grade at Melville Elementary School, all located in Portsmouth RI.

Donna was one of a kind.  She devoted her life to educating children and was a great role model to them.  But Donna also had many other passions and an incredibly active lifestyle.  She loved to read books of all kinds and write stories and poetry.  She was a fantastic cook and baker, her claim to fame being her “Hershey’s Chocolate Cake” and “Pistachio Cake”.  When the seasons changed and it was warm enough outside you could find Donna riding her bike along Middle Road in Portsmouth heading to Newport to visit her mom.  Donna also had professional knitting and sewing skills that she learned from her aunt when she was younger.  She mainly knit children’s sweaters, but could make anything. She loved the ocean and spent countless hours at McCorrie Point Beach in Portsmouth RI and Second Beach in Middletown RI where a lot of her knitting was done. She also enjoyed swimming, kayaking, walking and traveling with her family.

After speaking about all of Donna’s hobbies, we still have not mentioned her biggest passion in life, her family and friends.  Donna’s husband Russ and one of her best friends Eileen were kind enough to share all this information about Donna with us.  Eileen also shared a few words that she believed described Donna, “kind, creative, daring, funny, positive, loving, loyal, honest, genuine, generous, brave, grateful, patient, happy and optimistic. All these qualities made her an amazing teacher and a wonderful friend”.  Eileen’s words made it clear how much she cherished the time she had with Donna.

Russ spoke of how good of a mother Donna was.  Her priority was always her family and she raised both her sons to have the loving personality that she did.  Russ also shared how kind she was to the elderly, even taking time to frequently pack lunches and visit her older aunts and uncles to have lunch with them. One of the most heart warming parts of Donna’s life that Russ shared was that she used to volunteer at the Soup Kitchen in Bristol RI without telling anyone because she never looked for recognition for her good deeds.  Donna’s humbleness is just a portion of her gracious character. Russ spoke with all of his heart when he said she was “an outstanding wife, a great mom, and my best friend”. It is evident that those who knew Donna were all given a special gift that can never be replaced.

Tears came to both Russ and Eileen’s eyes as they saw the plaque for the first time and felt that it was a beautiful representation of Donna and her spirit.  Watching their reactions to seeing the plaque was nothing short of amazing.   But, watching the way Russ and Eileen lit up as they spoke about Donna was miraculous.  The love that Donna’s family and friends emanate for her is something so special and rare in this world.

The plaque is 18” x 24” in size, UV processed in full color on aluminum and also includes a photo of Donna.  It is going to be hung over the entrance of the Melville School Library, soon to be known as the Donna V. Combra Library.  To Donna’s Family and Friends, we could not be more honored to have made this plaque for a woman that was so humble about her accomplishments and influenced children for 30 years.  She truly deserves to be recognized for all that she was.

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New website, coming Fall 2009!

This fall we should be launching our new website with the help of DMInsite for web design and Adobe’s Scene 7 rich media platform. Great change is coming and it’s something we hope that all our customers will appreciate.

The website we have currently was first built over 7 years ago and has evolved rather slowly over those 7 years into what you see today. During these 7 years a great deal has changed on the internet.

The following figure from Internet World Stats is a table showing the number of internet users in the United States over the past 8 years.

YEAR Population Users % Pop. Usage Source
2000 281,421,906 124,000,000 44.1 % ITU
2001 285,317,559 142,823,008 50.0 % ITU
2002 288,368,698 167,196,688 58.0 % ITU
2003 290,809,777 172,250,000 59.2 % ITU
2004 293,271,500 201,661,159 68.8 % Nielsen//NetRatings
2005 299,093,237 203,824,428 68.1 % Nielsen//NetRatings
2007 301,967,681 212,080,135 70.2 % Nielsen//NetRatings
2008 303,824,646 220,141,969 72.5 % Nielsen//NetRatings

As you can see; the internet usage in the US has just about doubled over the past 8 years. Since our switch to Verndale in 2002 the site has had one real face-lift that only changed the look of the site and didn’t really affect the underlying capabilities of it – this was four years ago. We hope that with this new website we can make it easier for you to get what you want in a much improved manner.

In 2008 alone our website brought 10.51% more visits than 2007 and generated 1.66 million pageviews. These numbers are nothing compared to Amazon or Google but if you look at how far we have come; the first year that we had analytics running on our website it had 90,000 visits but in the past 6 months of 2009 we have had almost 70,000 visits. With an increase this big in visitors it’s definitely time for a change, we realize that it isn’t the easiest thing to purchase off our website and we hope to improve customer experience come this fall.

Along with the new website we will be rolling out a personalization system for some of our most popular products which we hope will not only give you a way to preview your product before you get it, but at the same time also reduce any discrepancies between what you want and what you get.

For a little bit of nostalgia and to take a peek at what our website looked like many years ago you should check out the “Wayback Machine”, specifically here. You can even see what our website looked like when it first launched way back in 1997.

Having a new website not only makes the job easier for the web team here at Hodges but it improves the experience you have when you buy something off our website.

We are looking for customer feedback; what sort of things would you like to see on the new website, and what sort of things could we change to make purchasing your awards on www.hodgesbadge.com an easier task for you? Put your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section, we would love to hear them.