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Clifford E. Hughes Jr.

, manager, dies
He led walking tours of Ellicott City for schoolchildren and learned how to play piano when he was 83
January 24, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter Clifford Elmer Hughes Jr., a retired manager who learned to play the piano at 83 and wrote his autobiography three years later, died Jan. 14 of pulmonary fibrosis at Gilchrist Hospice Care. The longtime Ellicott City resident was 89. Mr. Hughes was born at home in Baltimore on South Macon Street and raised in Highlandtown. After graduating in 1941 from City College, he went to work as a draftsman at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant. He studied marine design at the Maryland Institute College of Art and also at the Johns Hopkins University's McCoy College. In 1942, Mr. Hughes took a job at the Walker-Kaiser Co. Inc. shipyard in Providence, R.I., that was operated by Rheem Manufacturing Co., where he worked on the building of the Liberty ship SS William S. Coddington. He returned to Baltimore and Bethlehem Steel, where he resumed working until enlisting in the Army in 1944. Mr. Hughes was stationed in Iran, where he was a supply clerk with the 754th Railway Shop Battalion, which maintained rail service from the Persian Gulf to the Russian border. Discharged from the Army in 1946, he returned briefly to his former job and then began working as a project engineer for Rheem Manufacturing, the former Sparrows Point maker of water heaters. He was promoted to general production foreman and finally was chief quality-control officer. After the company moved its operations from Sparrows Point in 1961, Mr. Hughes took a job with Wolfe & Mann Co., manufacturers of electric power control boards used in the utility industry. When the company closed in 1970, he joined Educational Aids, where he was a manager for seven years. From 1977 until 1984, when he retired, he was a manager for Blind Industries and Services of Maryland. "He was always doing odd jobs in his retirement. He knew the owner of Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant in Ellicott City and worked there as a host," said his partner of seven years,

Shirley Bossom of Ellicott City. "He delivered flowers for Wessel's Florist and taught travel school at Bennett World Travel," Mrs. Bossom said. Until 2004, Mr. Hughes also worked for the Howard County Department of Tourism, where he enjoyed giving walking tours for schoolchildren of Ellicott City's historic downtown, as well as tours of haunted Ellicott City, Mrs. Bossom said. For years, Mr. Hughes and Mrs. Bossom played Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus during the holidays at Savage Mill and on Main Street in Ellicott City. Mr. Hughes' first wife of 25 years, the former M. Maxine Myers, died in 1966. His second wife, Bettie Hartleb Green, whom he married in 1966, died in 1993. In 1995, he married the former Virginia "Ginny" Ross, who died in 2003. "I had lost my husband, and we met in a bereavement group in 2003 at the Ellicott City Senior Center," recalled Mrs. Bossom. "He looked at me and said, 'My name is Cliff Hughes, and I've been married for 60 years and I've outlived three wives.' I said, 'If you're looking for a No. 4, you're looking in the wrong place.'" Mr. Hughes was not to about to be rebuffed and kept pressing for a date. "I don't know why I relented and went out with him. After all, I hadn't been on a date in more than 50 years," she said, laughing. The couple went to the Crab Shanty for their first date and then to a Masonic bull roast. The couple's love for one another grew as Mrs. Bossom sent her new friend inspirational messages to help lift him from the depression that lingered from his wife's death. In his self-published memoir, "The Extraordinary Life of An Ordinary Man," Mr. Hughes wrote that while having lunch one day at Baldwin's Station, a restaurant in the former Sykesville B&O depot, he realized he had "fallen in love with the messenger" as a freight train rumbled by. "I said, 'You know, we can do like this train and keep going full steam ahead, or we can slow down and apply the brakes.' Shirley said, 'Let's go full steam ahead.' And that's exactly what we did," he wrote. In 2003, the couple celebrated their relationship with a Christian commitment service at Holy Nativity Lutheran Church in Arbutus. "I took a chance on love, and it was a great ride," recalled Mrs. Bossom. Mr. Hughes was a world traveler and had been a founder with his second wife of Just Friends, an informal travel group. He was an avid reader, gourmet cook and gardener.

In his book, Mr. Hughes wrote that he had an "inner desire to accomplish something, but never got around to doing it," so at 83 he learned to read music and play the piano at the Ellicott City Arts Center. "He loved two things: trains and lighthouses," said Mrs. Bossom, a retired expediter. Since 1957, Mr. Hughes had set up an elaborate Christmas garden every year. "Cliff had such a great imagination and was such a clever man. Every year, he'd change the theme of the garden," she said. For 12 years, Mr. Hughes volunteered as the "Coffee Man" for Hospice of Howard County's Taste of Howard County fundraiser. Services were Jan. 19 at Rockland United Methodist Church in Ellicott City. In addition to Mrs. Bossom, survivors include a son, Clifford E. Hughes III of Woodstock; a daughter, Marilyn Arsenault of Abingdon; a brother, Allan Hughes of Wilmington, Del.; two sisters, Shirley Crosby of Arlington, Mass., and Helene O'Brien of Stoughton, Mass.; six grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and a great-great-granddaughter.

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