On Saturday, 25 years after Stimson's death - which went unsolved for more than a decade - Hodges will be one of about 20 former members of the Plymouth Whitemarsh Marching Colonials drum line who will reunite to remember their slain classmate.
They will bang out the school's once-signature drum cadence at the Cavalcade of Bands, a competition at the Plymouth Whitemarsh field in Whitemarsh Township.
The reunion was the idea of Mary and Ed Stimson, Keith's parents. Ed Stimson was director of the band when his son was killed in April 1987. Mary Stimson, who discovered her son's body in a field adjacent to the family home, was a drill team coach.
"They were so supportive to our family when Keith was killed. We probably wouldn't have gotten through it," Ed Stimson, 65, said. "It'll be so good to see them again and how they've grown."
Keith Stimson, a skateboarder, budding artist, and snare drum player, was shot in the head with a high-powered rifle while walking home. There was seemingly no motive, no obvious suspects.
"We all lost something that day: a son, brother, friend, classmate," said Steve Austin, now of Williamsport, Pa., who played the marching tenor drums, also known as quads.
Ed Stimson went back to directing the band four months later.
"It was hard, but I knew I had to go back," he said. "There were other kids who were friends of Keith's and I didn't want to let them down."
Mary Stimson, 67, plunged into depression. Her son's friends helped her cope. Members of the drum line began visiting the Stimson house every Monday to spend time with the family. That began a weekly tradition that lasted 13 years.
The killing went unsolved for 12 years, until then-Montgomery County District Attorney Michael Marino announced in 1999 that a grand jury had helped get to the bottom of the case.
Edward Elliott Jr. of Plymouth was believed to have fired the fatal shot, and Gary Lozzi of Conshohocken was a witness and coconspirator, Marino announced. Elliott was 21 and Lozzi 19 at the time of the killing. Both later committed suicide; each shot himself in the head, four months apart, in 1993. The motive remains a mystery.
"Regardless of what happened, it won't bring Keith back," Ed Stimson said.
In the years since the shooting, Ed Stimson has retired and now teaches music at St. Helena School in Blue Bell. Mary Stimson works part-time at a Blue Bell seafood shop. Both judge band competitions.
On Sunday, the former drum line members rehearsed in the Plymouth Whitemarsh band room, the same place where they had come together 25 years earlier to talk about Keith's death.
"We're a little grayer and a little heavier, but still the same personalities," said Brian Gallagher, 41, of Lafayette Hill, who was one of Keith's best friends.
The group shared family news and milestones, said David Stewart, dean of students at Plymouth Whitemarsh High and a former snare drum player.
"We all wondered what Keith would have been doing," he said.
Conti, of Audubon, now president of a digital marketing firm, led the group as he had 25 years ago. The drum line soon found its rhythm.
"Then Eric Elliott said, 'I don't want to rain on anybody's parade, but don't you think we should march to it?' " Austin, 43, said.
Eric Elliott, brother of Edward Elliott, was Keith's friend and has remained a friend of the Stimson family since the shooting. Elliott, a former drummer, will march Saturday, but declined to comment about the event.
In the high school parking lot, the drum line march came together, Austin said.
On Saturday, the members will play as drum majors representing the 12 school bands marching onto the field for the awards presentation.
The Stimsons will present an award named for their son to the competition's best percussion section.
"It will be bittersweet," Ed Stimson said. "But hopefully more sweet than bitter."
Contact Kristin E. Holmes at 610-313-8211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.