John C. Hughes (1915 - 2016)

  • "Our prayers are with John's family. John was, quite..."
    - Steve Tervooren
  • "Deepest sympathy to the Hughes family. It was a privilege ..."
    - Brenda Bergsrud
  • "John Hughes was truly a wonderful man. He often joked with..."
    - Karen (Hilliard) Obermann
  • "Mary, Your father was very special to many..."
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  • "I am truly saddened to hear of John Hughes' passing but how..."
    - Sherry Griffis

John C. Hughes, 101½, died peacefully on Sunday, December 4, 2016, at Providence Horizon House in Anchorage. John was born on Bad River in South Dakota to Florence Chamberlain and Felan Thomas Hughes on May 22, 1915, and was raised on the family homestead and in Madison, Wisconsin. After graduating from Ft. Pierre High School, John initially attended Eastern State Teachers College and taught school before entering the University of South Dakota Law School, pursuing the profession of his grandfather, South Dakota Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge John F. Hughes. After graduating from law school, he headed north, beginning his Alaskan odyssey that spanned more than three quarters of a century.
John, the oldest living member of the Alaska Bar Association at the time of his death, began practicing law on Kodiak Island in 1947. A year later, he married his college sweetheart, Marjorie Anstey, and they soon had two daughters, Mary Katherine and Patricia Ann. In 1951, John was offered a partnership with the Anchorage law firm of Davis & Renfrew and the family, now four, moved to Anchorage. During the first decade in Anchorage, their third daughter, Bridget, was born.
The firm's practice flourished as Alaska became the 49th State. Once statehood was achieved, Alaskans turned their attention to oil and natural gas, especially the extraction thereof. Natural gas and oil were discovered in abundance in the 1960's. With those discoveries, national retail stores began to seek Alaskan venues. John represented JC Penney as it chose its Fifth & D location (kitty corner from the law firm's office in the Loussac-Sogn Building). When the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake demolished the five-story department store, John assisted the company in re-building and enticing Nordstrom to locate in Alaska. But his real estate prowess was secondary to his expertise in estate planning, as he led Alaska's adoption of its first formal probate code and was a member of the Anchorage Estate Planning Council.
He built a firm of lawyers whom he envisioned would serve Alaskans well, and many are still practicing and doing just that. The firm expanded to eventually serve the entire State of Alaska and continues to bear John's name today, seventy-seven years after its creation.
The family's life revolved around Holy Family Church (later, Cathedral) and the many families who were parishioners. For decades, John volunteered as an usher for Mass and provided legal services to the Archdiocese of Anchorage from its inception until his retirement in 1980.
John's community activities included membership in the Alaska Bar Association and the Anchorage Lions International (he sold brooms and rang the bell for the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign for years). He helped organize and was the first president of the Kodiak Independent School District, was a member of the Board of the Anchorage Independent School District, and was a member and president of the Alaska School Board Association. He also served on the Bank of Kodiak Board of Directors and was an Organizer and Director of Peoples Bank & Trust (later purchased by Bank of America).
Education was his passion and in 1974 John co-founded the University of Alaska Foundation because he was a true believer in public higher education and the University of Alaska had no foundation to which Alaskans could donate. He served as a Trustee for many years and was a Trustee Emeritus at the time of his death. In 2007 he established The John C. Hughes Foundation to fund 501(c)(3) organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life for Alaskans.
John's commitment to people began with his family and extended to his ever-growing circle of friends. Love, compassion, and generosity of time were his nature. He delighted in meeting people and entered notes about new acquaintances in a pocket diary he invariably carried with him (his 2016 version graced his chairside table). For years, he spent months preparing his pickled salmon for a bevy of Alaskans at Christmas (and each jar was hand-delivered-at times with three little girls in the rear seat of the car). He also delighted informal gatherings of friends with sagas (usually containing a life lesson) and the recitation of poems and ballads from memory.
After retirement, John spent his days continuing to procure fish and preparing his sought-after pickled salmon; reading voraciously; playing cribbage; purchasing, refurbishing (with Marjorie) and managing rental properties; very actively tending his five acres on E. 88th Avenue (gardening, chopping wood, riding his John Deere tractor, hanging out in his "shop", and holding court on the wooden bench out front); cheering for his beloved Mariners and Seahawks; and working out daily at The Alaska Club (until he was
96 years of age). He had cared for Marjorie for several years, as her health failed. They had been married for over 56 years when she died in 2004. And he loved and nurtured his daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (the youngest, Quinlan, celebrated his first Christmas as John was celebrating his 101th in 2016).
John is survived by his daughters and sons-in-law, Mary Katherine Hughes and Andrew Eker, Bridget Hughes and Stephen Walsh, and Robert L. Eastaugh; grandchildren and spouses Carol Hughes Eastaugh and Adam Ault, Sean Hughes and Laura Peters Walsh and grandson John Frederick Eastaugh; step-grandchildren, J.R. Eker, Erin Ann Eker and Cindy Lee Barrett, their spouses and children; and great-grandson Quinlan Hughes Walsh, all of Anchorage.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Marjorie, and daughter, Patricia Ann Hughes Eastaugh.
John cherished Alaska and the many Alaskans he held dear. He believed it was his great fortune to live in Alaska and loved every moment of his adventure. During his last months, he was blessed with the loving care provided by Providence Hospice and Providence Horizon House.
A Memorial Mass will be celebrated for him at Holy Family Cathedral Tuesday, December 27 at 3 p.m. A reception will follow at the Quarter Deck of the Hotel Captain Cook. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to the Alaskan .
Published in Anchorage Daily News on Dec. 19, 2016
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