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8 Bells... John R Hughes

Laura Jeffers | Published on 6/9/2020

John R Hughes
John and Brian Hughes

John R. Hughes, 86 passed peacefully in his sleep following a brave battle with pulmonary fibrosis on May 21, 2020 at his home on Canobie Lake in Salem, NH. By his side were his daughter Shelley and granddaughter Chloie.

Born June 4, 1933, John was the son of Edmund J. Hughes and Anne (Bean) Hughes of Quincy, MA and twin brother to June. Raised in a close-knit family on Houghs Neck in Quincy with his six siblings, John kept up with family and friends from high school and beyond until his last days.

Following a US-based stint in the Army during the Korean War, "Hugger" attended American International College in Springfield, MA on the GI Bill. At AIC he met his soon-to-be wife of forty years, Eve Kolowrat Hughes. Brian, their first child, soon arrived followed by Michael and Shelley. John and Eve lived in Springfield, MA followed by Dayton, OH, and by the 1970's, Burlington, VT. John's career in television ad sales ultimately led him to become president of WEZF-TV and FM and a founding partner of WXXX-FM, both in Burlington.

John was a competitive sailor and summer weekends for decades were spent at regattas throughout New England, helming his Lightning Class boat. The family's recreational pursuits were centered around the Mallett's Bay Boat Club, Lightning Fleet 301 and the Burlington Country Club. When winter forced them to put up the sailboat, they enjoyed weekends skiing at Glen Ellen.

By the mid-1980s, the family settled in Salem, soon after John purchased the local radio station, WVNH. Sailing continued at the American Yacht Club in Newburyport, MA. After researching precisely what he desired in a racer-cruiser, he purchased the indestructible and beautifully drawn Eve, a 40' sloop which he would enjoy for over thirty years. His competitive nature was balanced by a warmth that brought him lifelong friends. The cocktail parties following the day's boat races were opportunities to discuss the wins and losses, and were where many friendships were forged.

When retirement came, he spent relaxing years cruising about Canobie Lake at cocktail hour with friends, and as a snowbird walking the beach in Marco Island. He would enjoy a loving second marriage to Janet Pappathan Hughes, who predeceased him. For a few years after the age of 80, John was finally able to make the boat his cherished winter home in Marco, something that, when married, was a challenge neither of his spouses would accept. John never ceased cheering on the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots, his Democratic values were fed by a steady diet of MSNBC, and he was always on the dance floor at parties and events.

John was predeceased by son Brian (in 1997), wife Eve (in 2000), wife Janet (in 2010), and five of his siblings. He is survived by son Michael (of Fort Lauderdale), daughter Shelley and granddaughter Chloie (both of Salem), and sister Muriel van Dommelen (of Port Orange, FL). He was a loving Uncle John to the Evans, Kolowrat, Reif, Cook, and Hughes families of Massachusetts and points beyond. John was in the very good hands of VA doctors in his final years and we commend their compassion and care. No services are planned at this time. Notes of remembrance may be sent to

Bill Fastiggi, Fleet 301 and current NE District Commodore: 

I have so many memories of John – far too many to make note of here.
John began sailing Lightnings when he first moved to Burlington, VT in the early 1970’s.  Our families were close.  Brian sailed with his dad all the time when we were kids.  Michael sailed occasionally but it wasn’t a passion of his and Shelley sailed with her dad and Brian for many years as well.  Michael and I were High School classmates.  John ran a TV station, started a radio station which he sold, and the family moved to Salem, NH in the early 80s.  We stayed close because we would see the Hughes family sailing all summer long.  John served as commodore of the NE District – I always referred to him as “Commodore for life”.  His enthusiasm was infectious.  There are just so many things to say, so many stories about John, Eve, and the kids, and just so many memories. 
There are just so many things you could say about John, but I think the one thing that he would most want to be remembered for was that he was the ultimate “Family Man”
Sail on Commodore...

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