Remembrance: Memories and Connections Inspired by RFH Teacher Mimi Hughes

By Elaine Van Develde

“As long as there’s one person on Earth who remembers you, it isn’t over …”

It’s a line from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Carousel that actor Mandy Patinkin recently recited on 60 Minutes to describe his faithful nightly ritual. Every single night, he remembers those in his life who have passed by naming them and reflecting on something memorable about them.

I believe, like Patinkin, that there’s an awful lot of truth to the words from the play. And I believe that we all need to pay attention to people who pass through our lives for one reason or another, perhaps altering our paths, and remember. Just remember.

All too often I hear from people, “I don’t remember.” Why not? If you care to remember, you will remember.

I care to remember. And I think that 26-year RFH English teacher, singer and actress, wife, mom and grandmother Mimi Hughes cared to remember. I think that, because when you remember people who passed through your life and passed the smallest to the most monumental elements of life onto you, you pass those things onto other people … and the cycle goes on.

You can see that she did this with her own family as well as with the many whose lives she touched in her own life’s journey.

I suppose I just can’t think of a more appropriate way to remember Mimi Hughes than through such words spoken in a musical, of all things. Words and music are much of what she was all about — what she left to me and many others.

And I suppose that she probably had no idea how she affected such a pivotal point in my life and likely many others’ in a similar way. That’s probably because being kind and generous of heart and talent just came so naturally to her — and with such grace.

But, I remember.  She is remembered, from that opening act to curtain call, and then some.

Act I …

I remember that first day at RFH, heading to Mrs. Hughes’ English class. I remember seeing this teacher carrying a load of books down the hall and wondering if that was her — my teacher. You could tell that pile was pretty heavy, but she just seemed to float right through the hall with it.

I actually don’t know why I remember this one thing, but I do — the books were always carried in front of her, not slung on the hip or in a bag. Though, she did have a bag.

I remember thinking what a towering presence she had and that she seemed to exude an extraordinary elegance. Then this lady rounded the corner of the classroom to which I was assigned. Yes, she was my teacher. And I thought she was just so cool.

As she unloaded the books on her desk, I also remember thinking that she was just so beautiful and intelligent looking — piercing, focused, but friendly blue eyes; and thick, dark hair with flecks of grey. Sometimes her readers were perched on the tip of her nose, always with the chain attached. And I’m pretty sure she was wearing a strand of pearls around her neck.

She had the looks of a classic movie actress with that intellectual writer’s bent.

She introduced herself and very neatly scrolled her name on the chalkboard. I can still hear her voice — eloquent, with a delicate, deliberately cultured cadence.

From that point on, Mimi Hughes had become a part of my life.

I always wanted to do well in her class, because she was just so kind and encouraging. I never wanted to disappoint her. That sort of unwaveringly kind encouragement blended with the most succinct, somehow soothing, honesty was her special blend of motivation for success. She never seemed to discourage. I remember that.

I remember even taking my English homework to rehearsals for a, nonetheless, community theater production of Carousel. 

I just had to impress her with my diligence, non-judgmental as she was.

Act II …

It wasn’t long after that when I discovered that Mrs. Hughes and her family were  involved in theater, too. I was doing shows at The Barn Theater and helping out with ushering and running the concession stand; and there they were.

I remember hearing her soprano voice in many a show. OK, so I don’t remember exactly which ones. But I do remember that voice and seeing her on that strange stage — more like bleachers surrounding a bare spot with lights and scenery, which was fabulous.

By the time I was a junior in high school the Hugheses and I were friends. We had done shows together. We were a theater family of sorts.

And that, in an uncanny way, carried onto the stage.

Mark played my husband, the mayor, in Bye Bye Birdie. Poor guy. All I did was scream and faint and he repeatedly scooped me up, bellowing, in his very old-sounding high school voice, “Edna!”

We were all in Fiddler on the Roof together. Nan, with her superb singing talent, played my daughter. Paul was Perchik. Mark was in the chorus, and, I think, Patrick was probably doing a show at The Barn. But that was a stage that was just right down the street. He was the youngest and not yet in high school then.

I was referred to as “big sis” and I was thrilled with the inclusion in the Hughes family.

And there were many more moments on and off stage.

Mimi Hughes and her family continued to figure quite prominently in what, to me, was a very special, sentimental senior year at RFH.

And I remember. Vividly.

We hung out together, popped over to the Hughes house across the street in between rehearsals, where Mimi always welcomed us. We sang around the piano at cast parties and, yes, thought we had hit some criminal pinnacle as we painted that infamous bridge senior year.

There was even one trek, in particular, that I recall with particular fondness, into New York City. Mrs. Hughes drove and we all sang in the back of their Mercedes station wagon. We were on a jaunt to dinner at Asti, that true showfolk restaurant where opera was sung throughout the meal and diners were sometimes invited to join in.

They grabbed Nan from the table, dressed her in some sort of hooded shroud and she appeared minutes later as part of a makeshift chorus.

Oh, and the ride home … Yes, the singing continued, but so did that game of transposing license initials into some sort of title, name or bizarre sentence.

I remember seeing Mrs. Hughes’ hair and grasp on the wheel from the back seat as she gently reminded us and Mr. Hughes, who was also playing, to keep it all wholesome.

Nan even came to see me at college when she was getting set to graduate from RFH.

Curtain …

The connection with the Hughes family has remained. I remember; and am grateful. Just last year I met up with Paul, whose son was in an RFH show, and Patrick.

There were so many moments. So many that made milestones in my life much more meaningful because of my connection to Mimi Hughes and her family.

I do remember. I remember that by the time I graduated from high school, I had decided that I wanted to not only act, but write as well.

I thought it was a  pretty cool combination, and Mrs. Hughes, to me, embodied the idea that I could do both in one way or another and be all that much more enriched to pay forward a love of family, theater and life and write about all of it and more.

Mimi Hughes’ memory, like the memory of so many we should remember, is a lesson.

That lesson is echoed in the song Try to Remember from the Fantasticks.

“Try to remember … and if you remember, then follow …”

Yes, follow.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Hughes. Thank you for bringing your family into my life and enriching it all the more. Though I think your son Paul remembers my mom more for having “tremendous milk” from the Acme (just as important, as it made my mom laugh for years), you are remembered. Your show isn’t over.

 

Sea of Blue Extends to Show of Support for Local Police

By Elaine Van Develde

You may have seen them popping up all around the Rumson-Fair Haven area — blue signs of support for local police.

The solemn show — blue ribbons, blue lights, blue anything peppering the area — has been dubbed the Sea of Blue Ribbons campaign.

And it continues through Dec. 31.

Continue reading Sea of Blue Extends to Show of Support for Local Police

Looking Back at a Special RFH Teacher, Friend

Mimi Hughes as pictured in the 1978 Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School yearbook.

By Elaine Van Develde

It is with great sadness, yet gratitude for a treasure trove of great memories, that I dedicate our Retro Pic of the Day to the memory of longtime Rumson resident and former RFH English teacher Mimi Hughes, who passed away Saturday morning.

Mrs. Hughes is remembered as an exquisitely gentille, intelligent, strong and compassionate woman. While many knew her from her many years as an RFH teacher, she is also fondly recalled as a singer, actress, friend, wife, mom to RFH grads Mark, Paul, Nan and Patrick and beloved grandmother to her grandchildren.

“She had time to say goodbye to all of us, and she did it with shining grace and composure,” daughter Nan said in a Facebook post. “Her last night was filled with love, Christmas carols and family. Mimi was even singing along with her grandchildren … And as always, she has been a role model, showing us the best way to do this.”

There will be a memorial gathering 10 a.m. on Tuesday, followed by an 11 a.m. Mass at Nativity Church, Fair Haven.

With our Retro Pic of the Day, we ask that you take a moment to remember Mimi Hughes.

Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect will be publishing an opinion piece on Monday in honor of Mrs. Hughes.

A Retro Look at Fair Haven School Daze

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Our Retro Pic of the Day takes you back to the days of Kindergarten classes at what was called the Youth Center in Fair Haven.

Kids were walked on a rope — yes, a rope — led by an official looking crossing guard-type person to the classroom which was where the police station is now. (We’ll get to the rope another time.)

This shot, circa 1965, features some kids who are still in the area, if not Fair Haven itself.

One is a well-known funeral director (front, left), another is your own Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect founding editor (front right, sort of), another has a mom who still lives in town and a brother who is a well-known area photographer and landscaper, and, yet another, was an impressive athlete growing up and is still in town.

Take your guesses. And, please feel free to send us your retro photos, credit included, at evd@rfhretro.com.

 

Get Your Christmas Booskerdoo On Now!

Screenshot of Booskerdoobakery.com website
Screenshot of Booskerdoobakery.com website

There are a lot of downtown business bargains going on for the holidays in Fair Haven right now.

However, one shop, in particular, is now aiming to make sure that all fans get their orders in by Thursday night to ensure a timely Christmas delivery. That shop is Booskerdoo.

The staff at the relatively new coffee and dessert shop on River Road is reminding people that “you can still order coffee at www.booskerdoo.com and get it by Christmas Eve. You’ve got about 30 hours left of guaranteed delivery,” according the business’ Facebook page.

“To receive it by Christmas Eve, order by Dec 18th,” another post not the page added. “Use coupon code ‘davy10’ for 10% off an order of three bags or more. All coffee is roasted the same day we mail it to you.”

Continue reading Get Your Christmas Booskerdoo On Now!

Parents Get ‘Google Apps for the Classroom’ Education

The following is an edited press release from the Fair Haven School District:

The Fair Haven School District gave parents an opportunity to get some hands-on experience with Google Apps for the Classroom.

Parents gathered at the Media Center of Knollwood School on Dec. 2 for the fourth event in a series of several planned by the district’s new Fair Haven Family Institute. The Institute was created to relay information to parents on initiatives undertaken throughout each year in the district.

As part of the Go Google! event, parents received hands-on experience with the capabilities of Google Apps for the Classroom. The program was hosted by Ellen Spears, district director of Curriculum, as well as Sickles School Principal Cheryl Cuddihy, Knollwood School Principal Kevin Davis, and district supervisor of Instructional Programs and Support Kathy Elgrim.

Continue reading Parents Get ‘Google Apps for the Classroom’ Education

Taking a Spin Back to Cotton Candy and Fair Days

 

Millie Felsmann spins and serves cotton candy at the Fair Haven Firemen's Fair's Out Back circa 1993.  Photo/Elaine Van Develde
Millie Felsmann spins and serves cotton candy at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair’s Out Back circa 1993.
Photo/Elaine Van Develde

While we’re on a Fair Haven Fire Department Ladies’ Auxiliary roll, we figured we’d keep it going with a Retro Pic of the Day that hones in on some warmth with yet another “fair” lady, Millie Felsmann.

In this snapshot, Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair circa 1993, she was up to her usual cotton candy spinning and serving.

The booth she is pictured in is now called the Out Back. Then it was just referred to as “the hot dog booth.”

What’s your favorite goodie from that booth?

Bye-Bye to Mike’s Toy Store

By Elaine Van Develde

A little slice of area toy store history went tumbling down on Tuesday.

The building that used to house the iconic Mike’s Toy Store in Little Silver is no more. And as it was toppled, childhood memories arose.

Mike’s was that kind of place for which many a kid in the Rumson-Fair Haven area saved his or her pennies, clutched in their tiny fists, for a jaunt to the wonderland to purchase a token toy dream come true.

And, some might say, the irony was uncanny that the place that many saw as their own fantasy Santa’s workshop came down at Christmas time. The jolt of the toy graveyard scene crushed old-timers’ nostalgia-riddled souls while igniting that child-like light from within.

Continue reading Bye-Bye to Mike’s Toy Store

A Look Back on Holiday Partying with the Fair Haven FD Ladies’ Auxiliary

Fair Haven Volunteer Fire Department’s Ladies’ Auxiliary celebrates the holidays many years ago. Pictured are: FRONT ROW Mary Farley, Sally Van Develde, Millie Felsmann, Paula Mulvihill, Mary LeCardi, Jane Croft, Evie Kelly, Joanne Fowler, BACK ROW Kathy Watson, Ethel Russek, Bobby Lang, Florrie Carlock, Ruth Binaco, Elinore Osborne, Jean Burgess, Mary Albertson, Marion Bennett, Jackie Leslie, Chris Schrank, Trish DePonti, Raquel Falotico, Dale Connor, Nellie Egeland, Esther England, Dot Connor and Kathy Robbins. Photo/Kathy Robbins

Our Retro Pic of the Day brings us decades back to a snapshot of a little holiday party fun with the Fair Haven Volunteer Fire Department’s Ladies’ Auxiliary.

There are an awful lot of familiar faces in this shot, including some Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) grads and/or their mothers — this editor’s mom, too.

Take a look and see who you recognize. Thanks to Kathy Robbins who took the photo and circulated it last year on Facebook.

Detour: W. Front Street Bridge to Close

By Elaine Van Develde

People in the area knew it was coming — a four-month West Front Street Bridge closure.

But, right now, with plans long in the works to replace the bridge, which spans from Red Bank to Middletown, Monmouth County officials today announced that there would be intermittent lane closures in the area in preparation of what has now been determined to be a Jan. 2 shut-down of the span.

Until that closure, county officials announced in a release, “there will be intermittent lane closures between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Hubbard Avenue and other roads on the Middletown side” of the 92-year-old bridge.

Continue reading Detour: W. Front Street Bridge to Close