John T. Hughes Jr. (“Jack”) died on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, at Hope Hospice in Sandwich.
He was the son of John T. Hughes and Virginia S. Hughes, and was born on April 10, 1951, at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.
Jack loved the natural beauty of the Vineyard. He had special places all over the Island. When he was old enough to wander about, he’d explore the woods and shores of Lagoon Pond. He’d invite his friends along; Judy Issokson remembers “way too many” afternoons spent with Jack’s mum sewing Judy’s pants after she tried to jump fences that Jack assured her were easy to clear. He’d jump off the drawbridge in the summer, ice-skate in the winter, and go coasting in Cat Hollow with family and friends. He went duck hunting with his father at Pohogonot. He took his kids to many of these special places, and with the exception of jumping off the bridge, had his kids skating and coasting. He would take them to the mill pond at John Early’s old workshop and make them fishing poles with scraps of wood to catch the small fish that were stocked in the pond.
Jack invited friends in hard times to the family table for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. His son Oliver says he learned from Jack’s example, and attributes his good nature to his father’s generosity.
His many years on John Early’s crew took him to jobsites with spectacular views, including Squibnocket and locations along Vineyard Sound. He loved exploring the shore, looking for sharks’ teeth, arrowheads, and beach glass. He loved watching the birds, whether in the woods or over the water. He’d get excited seeing a ripple in the water, as it presented an opportunity to catch fish. He was an observant naturalist. He was on Chappy one time and watched a family of woodcock cross the dirt road. We laughed for months after as he, over six feet tall, demonstrated just how the woodcock moved.
In his early days of carpentry, Jack worked with Marc Pelletier and his crew. He moved over to John Early’s company, and worked with a great crew of craftsmen for many years. He took great pride in his work, and appreciated the artistry and craftsmanship of others. Jack would show you progress on a jobsite and point out what he thought was a difficult cut well executed, a successful complex framing, beautiful stonework, or a beam whose special grain had been displayed.
Bill Wallace remarked that “Jack was the master of guerilla carpentry. He worked hard; if you hired him he delivered every penny’s worth of productivity. I never meet a man with stronger focus: crazy and amazing.”
Mike Post tells this story: “There was the time Jack was working on the remodeling of the Martha’s Vineyard Co-Operative Bank in Oak Bluffs. We had by then started using nail guns for most of the framing. Jack and I were installing the rafters on the new dormers in the front of the building, Jack at the top plate and I at the ridge. For whatever reason, when Jack fired off, one of the soft metal nails took a right turn and secured his thumb along with the rafter to the top plate. The next words out of his mouth were “CATSPAW, CATSPAW, CATSPAW.” I scampered down the staging, found a catspaw, clambered back up, and just before I set the catspaw behind the nail head with all my might, Jack, with nail gun still in his right hand, said “WAIT, WAIT, WAIT.” He then proceeded to nail the rafter securely in place before I attempted to set the catspaw and remove the nail. I said to myself, That’s some quick thinking! Once the nail was removed, Jack drove himself to the hospital. We all went back to work. Two and a half to three hours later, near the end of the day, Jack returned. It seems he got tired of waiting to be seen, and walked out of the emergency room and drove to the Ritz, where we all joined him.”
Jack enjoyed playing on the varsity basketball team in high school. He was good at the game, and worked hard to use the skill set he was given. Jack did, however, have some sports experiences that were a bit challenging. Marc Pelletier remembers that in the 1970s, while the Space Cowboys did their best to reign supreme as a credible bowling team, “Long Lock” was Jack’s bowling name. Initially, their performance was so abysmal that Al Brickman gave them keys to the bowling alley so they could practice in the off hours, away from prying and more competent bowlers. They did practice, and they often won — there is at least one trophy in someone’s storage locker or cellar. This team membership and camaraderie extended to baseball, as the Mainliners — Jack was the catcher.
There were decades of intense pool and dart games, and the ongoing low-stakes card games. He taught his kids cribbage, but never gave them a mulligan, and gave them pool lessons at the P.A. The memorable element of any of these games is not Jack’s performance — the recollection always includes his characteristic facial expression, a kind smirk, like there was always some other inside joke.
The last sport Jack played was golf, a game he excelled at and enjoyed. He had an Island membership at Farm Neck, and frequently enjoyed playing with his mum and father. He also enjoyed watching birds and finding arrowheads along the edges of Sengekontacket Pond as he made the rounds.
Jack’s friend Bill describes him best: “Like this Island he so deeply loved, he had a wide variety of moods, and like this island they could comfort, intrigue, and occasionally overwhelm, but always, always, eventually, after what could seem like an eternity, they would resolve themselves. The breach in the beach to Chappy would heal, Jack would come back to us, and we’d all remember the boy, the man, the Islander. He was a gift, maybe a hard gift sometimes, but worth it. There was only one Jack Hughes. If there were two, the world would wobble off its axis and crash into the sun.”
As his health deteriorated, he lost his ability to walk the beaches and the edges of the ponds and to explore the woods, but he still made daily drives to East Chop to watch the ocean and listen to the waves while he did crossword puzzles and sudoku.
Jack is survived by his children, Kate, Oliver, and Tom Hughes; his father, John, and his sisters, Pat and Sally Hughes and Ellen Gallagher. He was the brother-in-law of Hal Minis, Elaine Merritt, and John Gallagher.
A potluck celebration of his life will take place on Saturday, Nov. 10, beginning at 12:30 at the P.A. Club. Donations in Jack’s memory may be made to the Holy Ghost Association, Box 2203, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557, or to Hope Hospice, 73 Service Road, East Sandwich, MA 03537.