Mark F. Hughes Jr.: Legacy of a Rumson Dad

“He was a great man, and a humble man … His hearty laughter at a good story or joke, his warm-hearted and frequent expressions of love and support for all of us, his kindness to people from all walks of life, and his keen intellect and insight will be missed, while memories of him live on.”

Nan Hughes Poole, Mark Hughes Jr.’s daughter

Memories. Moments. They’re what live on after we’re gone — what takes on a life of its own, indelibly etched in the minds of future generations. Legacy. There are so very many of those moments, those memories that many could call to mind as they put on their best bowtie and tip their hat to all that comprise the legacy left by longtime Rumsonite Mark F. Hughes Jr..

The husband, dad, grandfather, lawyer and rarest of gems among gentleman died on March 10, just four days shy of his 90th birthday. He and his wife, Marie H. “Mimi” Hughes, a longtime Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) English teacher, lived in Rumson for more than 55 years. They raised their four children there, in their home right across the street from the high school. They welcomed many into the Hughes home, like family, with open hearts and a voracious interest in the passions of all they met and cared to know better.

Anyone who has crossed the Hughes home threshold or been on stage with one or many has a story to tell. One of patriarch Mark, always the gentile Mr. Hughes to me, stands out in my mind. It tells his legacy tale in a mind’s snapshot. It’s a little lost-and-found snippet of a dad and grandfather steeped in a moment that had become tradition — a generational one to be carried on for lifetimes.

In my mind’s eye, a locked frame-freeze cache, it remains …

“Somehow, we’ve lost Dad,” said a content, grinning Paul Hughes, Mark’s son and my longtime friend, at closing day of an RFH show. Decades before, it was we who were at the RFH auditorium, mingling, crying over the ending, collecting accolades and bouquets. “He got caught up chatting with people and he’s still at the high school somewhere. Somehow, he got left behind. Gotta go find him.”

Paul, laughing and shaking his head, bolted from his driveway and back to the halls of his alma mater in search of Dad. People were streaming into the house for an after-show party. Oh, Mr. Hughes was delighted to participate in all of it. Gushing grandpa, Hughes patriarch and full-on fan he was, of course. Some things never change — and that’s a good thing this time.

I had seen this before. Him being lost in it again, decades later, for another generation, made me smile. It made Paul giggle and shrug, rest assured that he had one special kind of dad. The kind who devoured these times, ever so gently, nodding, smiling, believing in the best in each of those teens he had come to know through the show. The man cared. He watched. He listened. He sopped up every morsel, savored the delicious splendor in one more nugget of his unbeknownst legacy.

He may have never ended up on a milk carton, but Mark Hughes Jr., indeed, was lost in it all and found — oblivious to anything but his after-show moments. He always made the after-show mingling business of show business his business. After all, the entire Hughes family had played together, a merry band of stage players. And they stayed together, bonded, bringing many into the fold with them, embracing every special moment, every bond created.

In that moment, Mr. Hughes was remembering and paying forward an example for his grandchildren to emulate. Legacy. This patriarch had enjoyed a show folk life at the high school and iconic The Barn Theater down the street. In fact, the number of Hugheses in any given show was often counted as people opened their playbills and checked out on posters. This time it was his grandchildren Brennan and Liam who he proudly applauded playing child and mature Tarzans in the 2017 RFH production.

It wasn’t just the show folk life that was to be his legacy, though. It was the show — any show, any genre. It was all it embodied. The song. The dance. The connection. The standing ovation of support for family and friends. The bow? That is Mr. Hughes’s to take now. On your feet, all. Encore, Mr. Hughes. See you after the next show. We know right where to find you. In the moment. In our hearts. There’s no “exit stage left” for you, just that encore. Bravo!

More about Mark Hughes Jr. …

While it was a lawyer’s life as well as a community theater actor’s for Mark, he was acclaimed as a standout as Mr. Darling in Peter Pan at The Barn Theater back in the day and was compelling as the tough Sheriff Thomas in The Rain Maker at that theater. He derived great joy from seeing his grandchildren carry on that tradition, in Rumson, and beyond.

Most are heavily involved in acting and music. The show, for him was any event or passion, from the stage, to sports, to a good board game at home, for which he could support and enjoy the company of his family and friends.

He cherished time at the beach with family and friends, taking in nature and engaging in a good conversation, swapping wit and intellect.

Mark grew up very close to the ocean in Elberon and loved to body surf and play tennis on the grass, from an early age. He never lost his love of that grass or the sea.

Among Mark’s greatest pleasures were being with his wonderful wife, Mimi, and his family, particularly when they all enjoyed the surf at the Sea Bright Beach Club, and playing tennis, at every opportunity, with his children and his great and witty friends at the Sea Bright Lawn Tennis and Cricket Club.

Hughes family in Mark’s obituary

He was a devout Catholic and attended mass at Holy Cross Church for decades.

Mark was a graduate of The Canterbury School in Connecticut, and Columbia College and Columbia Law School in Manhattan, where he won the Moot Court Competition. Thereafter he had the honor of a clerkship to Justice Adrian P. Burke of the New York Court of Appeals. Later he was an associate at Willkie, Farr & Gallagher in Manhattan, and he was also an assistant district attorney in Manhattan as well, where he prosecuted federal crimes, such as income tax evasion.

As a New Jersey lawyer, Mark became a partner at Crummy, Gibbons and O’Neil in Newark, and he also taught civil procedure at Rutgers Law School in Newark. For a period of time, Mark opened a solo practice in Fair Haven to be closer to his children when they were very young. He then founded the law Firm of Kraft & Hughes in Newark, with Jack Kraft, and taught Civil Procedure at Seton Hall Law School. Many of his students remember him as their favourite professor.

Mark’s area of concentration in practicing law was complex litigation, which brought him, as he described it, “peaks of elation and valleys of despair.” Thereafter, Mark was a sole practitioner in Newark. In semi-retirement, he opened a solo practice in Little Silver, New Jersey. He worked daily, all dressed up, donning his trench coat, suit, hat and bowtie, nearly until his passing.

His wife Mimi passed after a long illness on Dec. 20, 2014.

Mark is survived by: his sisters, Toni Hillary, of Denver, CO, Mary Jane (and husband Peter) of The Villages, FL; his three sons, Mark F. Hughes III, Esq. of Manasquan, John Paul (and wife Luann) Hughes, of Rumson, and Patrick Edward, of Highlands; his daughter Nan (and husband Peter), of Banff, Canada; and seven grandchildren, Matthew, Irene, William, Connor, Brennan, John, and Sarah.

A private funeral has been held.

John Caroli
BCS Wealth Management