By SKEETER TOWER
Special to the OBSERVER
Michael Hudson, a colorful and talented member of this community, died suddenly in his home on Eagle Street, Dunkirk last December. At 60 he had many accomplishments and had made many contributions. He requested no ceremony in his will, baffling friends and neighbors who imagined a more elaborate send-off including released doves, bushels of flowers, classical music and, of course, tables of delicious gourmet food. That would have been more Michael's style.
Michael grew up on Taft Place, the son of Betty and Fred Hudson. Betty was a highly respected supervising nurse at Brooks Hospital and Fred owned and operated the Hudson Liquor Store in town. Fritz and Patricia were siblings. At a very young age Michel's artistic interests led him to become passionate about baking and neighbors report that even before high school he was operating a small catering business out of his family home, often borrowing oven space from neighbors when his orders overwhelmed baking space in his own kitchen. Later he would lean on friends to work through the night to complete to perfection gourmet goodies on schedule, to be delivered to affluent homes for special occasions. He eventually set up a catering business in Buffalo and taught gourmet cooking at BOCES at the community college.
Students in these classes remember him fondly and tell about the grand finale of the class, which brought as many as 30 participants to a multi-course dinner prepared by Michael at his elegantly restored home at 68 W. Fourth St. There he was prepared to serve all with matching leaded crystal, silverware and fine china. On one of these occasions, students made a "box" cake of cardboard to underscore their recognition of Hudson's passionate objection to cake mixes. Judy Hollender, one of those present, remarked that Michael had a great sense of humor and she has no doubt that "whatever Martha Stewart could do, Michael could do better."
Jewelry was another passion and he was a frequent visitor to Kirk's Jewelry Store where he liked to help design jewelry. Kirk remarks that he was both stubborn and meticulous but would be willing to admit when a design plan just did not work. He was known to drop in with exquisite floral arrangements at different establishments.
"Everyone adored him," comments Sharon Kirk, who adds that Michael always teased her by referring to her as "Saint Sharon."
Michael designed and landscaped the award wining plantings at 15 W. Fifth St. Western Division of the Federal Credit Union.
"We all loved him," chimed in the employees, when asked who knew him.
He was a good neighbor, looking out for the property when closed and dropping in to spread cheer and bring surprises.
Employees at the Care Center had the same reaction: "He always made our day. He told us stories and made us laugh."
Michael designed and planted their garden as well although he was walking with a cane and a patch on his eye at that time.
Josie Christopher, of Circle of Love, describes Michael as "loving, compassionate and creative." He was the first one to knit a prayer shawl at the Circle of Love. He actually owned a knitting shop at one time in his life. Not only did he knit, but he loved refinishing antiques, reupholstering chairs, making curtains and was a skilled decorator, favoring Victorian flourishes. He was full of information, and if he didn't know, he would find out on the Internet.
Michael Hudson can be credited with restoring as many as six historic homes throughout the city, including the magnificent brick Staph Mansion on Fourth and Dove, the faux Tutor on Lucas and the fresh yellow Victorian on Eagle which was his last project. Like every building he tackled, he spared no detail or expense and used only the finest quality materials in renovation. He loved and collected antiques. He once even restored and lived in a small cottage and farmed a few acres on the Fredonia-Stockton Road. During these years he grew a beard down to his waist and dramatically changed his appearance.
He was a person of culture and enjoyed classical music, theater and dance. Michael generously shared these interests with his nieces and nephews, taking them to the Allentown Arts Festival, the symphony, "The Nutcracker" in Philadelphia and a multitude of concerts. He taught them to cook as well, always to music, says his niece, Jennifer.
Michael brought all these skills with him in his last venture as a home care provider. He had taken care of both his grandmother and his mother, whose kindnesses he never forgot. He simply adored them and, in fact, directed his remains to be placed by their gravesites at Villanova Cemetery in South Dayton.
Michael lost an eye during a botched surgery and lived temporarily at One Temple Place during recovery. There he charmed the elderly ladies and after moving out continued to visit and make special treats for them. As a home care specialist he was much in demand as word got around that he would volunteer such personal extras as washing and ironing curtains, making little meatloaves for the weekend when he was not there, reupholstering a favorite chair, or cooking some special dessert.
Michael was an "adopted" grandparent figure in the home of Diane and Michael Rafen, whose boys , Carson and Dawson, affectionately called him "Michael, Michael," to distinguish his name from their dad's. There he spend his holidays, mentoring the boys, teaching them to drive and modeling for them the more gracious aspects of living. He left each a diamond for such future time as they found their true loves.
The community has lost a diverse, talented and one of a kind human being. Michael's garden continues to produce, even as our memories remain. His garden is half rhubarb and half strawberry, homegrown ingredients for one of his specialty pies. Like this pie, Michael combined the sweet and the sour of life into an admirable product, making the most of what he was given. Like the sign hung on his wrought iron fence by friends who learned of his sudden passing: "We miss you, Michael Hudson."
Skeeter Tower is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org