2011-09-22 / Living

Celebrating 100 years

Former judge pays tribute to his mother
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Mary Louise Hughes 
Photo provided Mary Louise Hughes Photo provided BURTON — Mary Louise Hughes, who turns 100 this week, has been having birthday parties all summer long.

Son Richard Hughes, a former Burton judge explains as Mary Louise Hughes’ six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren have been stopping by her Roscommon cabin when they’re available to laud the milestone.

“The mantle is taken up now so she’s got a tabletop covered now,” Richard Hughes says of all the cards his mother has received.

Mary Lousie, a former Davison school teacher, began her 100 years in 1911 where she grew up in Rochester and knew from an early age that she wanted to teach.

Although continuing her education was unusual for girls at the time, Mary Louise attended college at Alma, where she received all As except for one B+, an incident that she remembers to this day. “The professor apologized to her at her graduation,” Richard Hughes smiles.

Education remained paramount to Mary Louise, as she took up teaching English and Latin at Bendle Schools then and teaching third grade at Davison’s Hill Elementary in the 1950s, eventually earning a master’s

degree from the University of Michigan.

Today, Mary Louise Hughes’ great-grandchildren are starting their first year of school at the same elementary where she taught over 50 years ago.

“I never remember my mother or father ever saying ‘you have to go to college.’ There was no insistence; it was just expected. We didn’t want to embarrass our parents,” explains Richard Hughes, who used to pick his mother up in the family car at the end of the school day while he was in high school.

The mother of three boys, grandmother of six, including grandson-in-law and Burton judge Mark Latchana, and now great-grandmother of nine divides her time between living independently in a summer home in Roscommon and a house in Otisville and enjoys reading, e-mailing, playing cribbage and whipping up her specialty, cherry rhubarb pie.

“Even though she’s 100, she’s sharp as a tack. She wins as much as I do,” Richard Hughes says of cribbage.

As a child, Mary Louise heard an often-relayed story from her grandfather, who was a 7-year-old boy at the end of the Civil War that she can recount in detail. Days after President Lincoln was shot, two men, one with a limp from a broken leg, showed up at the family farm in Virginia asking for a place to stay and identifying themselves as Southern soldiers on their way home. Mary Louise’s great-grandfather let the men use the barn to sleep in and allowed them to eat dinner with the family. That night, Union forces burned the barn down in order to force John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice out. Wilkes died on the family’s front porch after being shot by Union soldiers.

Mary Louise doesn’t forget anniversaries either. Son Richard Hughes met his wife Suzanne while in law school and visited his parents to tell them about the upcoming nuptials.

“When I brought my wife and told them the date, my mother was elated,” Richard Hughes said. He had unknowingly set the date on Mary Louise’s own anniversary – and had to admit that he didn’t know his parents’ wedding anniversary.

Mary Louise Peters married Halley C. Hughes on June 22, 1936, after meeting him through an aunt that played ‘cupid’ for her.

“My mother was in the kitchen washing dishes and turns around to see this young man just a year older than her. She said that was the first time in her life that her heart began to race,” says Richard Hughes.

Another grandchild of Mary Louise has continued the tradition by picking out the same date for their marriage.

Richard Hughes remembers his mother as the ‘person of reason’ and his father as the disciplinarian. Once as children, Richard Hughes and his brother set out to free their bikes from between the family car and 20 storm windows in the garage for a ride. Richard Hughes attempted to back the manual transmission car out and wound up knocking out a portion of the garage wall in addition to shattering all 20 windows.

“When we got home, Mother went straight into the house,” Richard Hughes laughs. “And when my brother and I asked to go to the movies that night, she said ‘No, I don’t suppose you can.’ That was her sense of humor. She’s never had any enemies. She was always nice to everybody and has been that way all her life.”

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