Robert (Bob) H. Hughes died peacefully in his sleep on Nov. 2. A true Islander, he was born in the house on the corner of Pequot and Circuit avenues (the Oak Bluffs Inn), on July 4, 1914 to John Hawksworth and A. Elizabeth Hughes.
Bob graduated from the Oak Bluffs High School in 1931 and continued his education at Springfield College, where he graduated with a bachelor of science in 1935. While at Springfield College, he had the privilege to talk to James Naismith, who was an instructor at the college and the inventor of basketball back in 1891. Bob was also an All-American soccer goalie. The soccer team had a rigorous schedule playing and usually defeating such teams as Army, McGill, Dartmouth, Brown, Penn State, Temple and Yale. Bob treasured the soccer ball from the undefeated season the team had while serving as goalie. Several years later, Bob received his master’s degree from Boston University.
In 1935, Bob began teaching science and math at the Oak Bluffs High School. His first year’s salary was $1,200. The next year, the school committees voted him a $100 raise. His father was on the finance committee at that time and said Bob didn’t need the raise since he was living at home. There was a little heated discussion at home that evening.
As a teenager, Bob carted many of the stones from the shore of Makonikey to the Old Stone Building (the current home of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission). He often wondered if anyone could guess the number of stones in the building. His father built the structure.
During World War II, Bob served as gunnery officer, 1st lieutenant and executive officer on the LST 900 in the Pacific area. LST is short for Landing Ship Tanks, and was nicknamed Large Slow Target by the crew. They were shallow-draft and went directly onto the beaches. The huge bow doors then opened to disgorge its cargo.
On June 18, 1938, Bob married his sweetheart, Ruth Blankenship. The two were married for 69 years until her death in December of 2007.
Bob was a founding charter member of the Martha’s Vineyard Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 9261. He was also past commander of this post.
In July of 1953 Bob became the postmaster of Oak Bluffs. He enjoyed making the post office a little different for his customers, displaying mayflowers (the Massachusetts state flower) in the spring and live pinkletinks to fascinate his stamp buyers. Bob was proud to be the postmaster and recalled the Oak Bluffs post office was the only post office in the world that had a mailbox to serve a blind person. By means of wires, notches and screws, he made it possible for his two blind customers to find their box and work the combination. He retired from the post office in February 1978.
In Bob’s retirement days, he still kept the post office busy with many letters he wrote to people all over the United States. Bob made many people happy when they received an envelope in the mail that was custom-colored by him, on Island history or just something to make you smile. Bob was extremely proud of his town and Martha’s Vineyard. He often referred to the Island as the “Isle of Dreams.”
Bob had many wonderful days in his “golden years.” He was fortunate enough to be able to spend many days in his garden or perfecting his lawn, playing tennis, quahaugging and scalloping, or basking in the sun with his loving wife on State or Lakeworth beaches.
Bob’s brother John T. Hughes; his nephews Jack Hughes and Buzz Blankenship; nieces Pat Hughes and husband Hal, Sally Hughes and companion Eleni, Ellen Gallagher and husband John, Sandy Meldrum and husband Dave, and Linda Golding and husband Ed; great-nephews Oliver and Tom Hughes and Isaac Golding; great-nieces Katie Hughes, Jennifer Meldrum, Sarah Golding, Dawn Gallagher and husband John, Meredith Gallo and companion Damon Aldrich, Beth O’Connor and husband Mom and great-great nieces and nephews, Isabel, Ian, Jack, Macy and Mabel all survive him.
At this time, there will not be a funeral or memorial, but a celebration is planned for June 2013. Bob would appreciate if you would do at least three exceptional acts of kindness each year for the next three years in his memory.