|Birth: ||Jul. 11, 1917|
|Death: ||Apr. 3, 2010|
U. S. Navy Seabees / World War II
Father: George C. CODDING
Mother: Ruby JEWELL
Marriage: Nellie "Nell" WILLIAMS
A larger-than-life character whose postwar developments transformed Santa Rosa from orchards to suburbs Builder, banker, visionary. Hugh Codding's legacy fits all three categories.
But long before the celebrity generation and its promise of 15 minutes of fame for all, Hugh Codding was a character, a self-styled rogue with a whimsical sense of humor and an unslakable thirst for attention.
--A flagpole-sitter to promote his new shopping center.
--An elephant -- that's a real, live pachyderm -- for his congressional campaign.
--''Pussnik,'' his family cat, touted for a spaceflight after the Soviets placed a dog in orbit.
--Feuds with City Hall, usually accompanied by a wink and his eponymous sign.
--The sign: A revolving monument reading ''Codding'' on one side and ''Town'' on the other, it stands 72 feet tall in the parking lot of the Santa Rosa shopping center that bears his name. Halted over his objections in 1981, Codding ordered it switched back on now and again as a show of pique -- or to mark the occasional anniversary -- before the city gave in, declared the sign a landmark in 1993 and allowed it to twirl once again.
But the sign is hardly his only landmark.
When GIs returned home after World War II ready to settle down and start families, Codding began selling the American Dream -- 1,000 square feet at a time.
Starting with a small shopping center in what was once a prune orchard on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, he moved up to a much larger shopping center nearby. To provide customers for his merchants, Codding built homes, about 2,600 of them altogether, in Montgomery Village.
One of the houses went up in a little over three hours, another bit of showmanship that helped land young Codding in Time magazine as a symbol of the postwar economic boom.
Coddingtown, built in 1960, was one of the first modern malls on the West Coast.
He founded a bank and two savings-and-loan associations, survived a brush with bankruptcy, started his own newspaper, served two terms on the City Council and established himself as a commercial landlord. With the help of his savvy wife, the late Nell Codding, he also polished his reputation as a tough, bottom-line businessman.
As the Codding empire expanded, its value was estimated at $300 million or more.
Codding ''changed Santa Rosa more dramatically and more quickly than any change that came before, with the possible exception of the '06 quake,'' historians Gaye LeBaron and Joann Mitchell wrote in their book, ''Santa Rosa, a 20th Century Town.''
When the building boom slowed, his attention shifted to Rohnert Park, a new city born in the early '60s from a seed farm. It had ambitions to grow like Santa Rosa had in the previous decade. There were more shopping centers, apartments and offices to build.
A political comeback failed in 1996, when he lost a City Council race at age 79. But retirement has never been an option for Codding.
Much of the daily responsibility for the family business has passed on to Codding's son, David. Hugh Codding spends a great deal of time at his Sea Ranch retreat, but keeps an office at the headquarters of Codding Enterprises and remains forever on the prowl for the next big deal -- and the next big headline.
So it's only fitting that the final words are his: ''This is my town.''
-- James W. Sweeney
Nellie Evelyn Williams Codding (1924 - 1990)*
Santa Rosa Memorial Park
Created by: Arthur Allen "Art" Moore...
Record added: Dec 30, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 46150474