I’m not quite ready to share my comments from Daddy’s memorial service. Mom asked me to write the obituary for the paper and I did. It’s somewhere in my house, tucked inside a Bible, and I can’t remember exactly what I wrote. But whatever it was, it caught the attention of someone on the staff of the regional newspaper. About 2 days after the memorial service, we received a phone call from the paper asking our permission to publish an article about Daddy. We agreed, several people were interviewed, and here’s what the paper published (with most names changed.)
GE Hughes – “Eddie” to anyone who knew him – was known for his handiness with stained glass and with just about everything else. One of the very last stained-glass works he made before his death was a gift for his cardiologist: a heart, broken into pieces and put together again with an inscription reading, “To the Heart Mender.”
“He really was a great guy,” said John , a friend who met Hughes in church 10 years ago.
“He was my go-to guy,” adding that Hughes could fix anything from “heavy machinery to stained glass.”
Hughes was a tool and hardware supplier, he said.
“He was always scrounging and fixing things up. … He knew everyone from what we would call far Southwest – Carroll County and Lee County – to Lynchburg and Appomattox.”
When Hughes retired, he put his talents to work overtime for his community at MS Baptist Church in Christiansburg.
“He really had a servant’s heart,” John said – a sentiment echoed by Hughes’ daughter, Cielo, who described her father as having a “humility of spirit” and a “servant gift.”
That humility was recognized by those who knew Hughes. His family and friends speak of the quiet manner with which he helped others, and they say his quietly conducted service was an extension of his faith.
“He probably knew more about the Bible than he would let on,” said J.C., a long-time friend who said that Hughes wasn’t the type to “beat people over the head with the Bible.”
He didn’t need to, said J.C. “His actions spoke volumes about who he was and what his faith was all about.”
Evidence of Hughes’ service abounds in his church, where, according to his friends and family, it is impossible to look around without seeing something that Hughes built or repaired. According to his wife, D., near the end of his life Hughes told her, “I’ve left traces of myself all through this church.”
“And the truth,” she added, “is that he left traces of himself in the hearts of these people.”
Hughes was also a greeter at the church, and because of that, he was often the first person a new church member was likely to meet. “He made them feel so welcome and at home.”
Hughes was born in Richmond in 1937 and eventually moved with his family to Skipwith to a small house in a little railroad town in tobacco country no bigger than, as his wife put it, “twelve houses and a post office.” He graduated from high school and became an electrician’s apprentice. When in the late 1950s his company offered him a job to build a hospital in Mount Airy, N.C., he took the opportunity.
It turned out to be one of the most important decisions he would ever make because it was there, at a party a co-worker was having, where Hughes met his wife.
“I really can still remember the very first time I saw him,” she said joyfully. She was only 14 at the time, and he was 18. Eventually they were married – a union that lasted 45 years. They had a daughter, Cielo, and two grandchildren, Clayton, 14, and Katherine, 10.
Hughes’ personality and his faith continued to shine even at his memorial service, due to several of his requests. According to his wife, he had asked the pastors to conduct the service as a celebration. In that spirit, Hughes asked the pastors to wear bright-colored ties. (Cielo adds: There were many ties for them to choose from, all Daddy’s, and the directions were specific: they had to wear one of Daddy’s ties, not one of their own.)
“He loved life. He was always a joy,” his wife said. “I found a jewel.”