John E. Hughes, age 94, passed away Wednesday, April 28, 2021 following a rich, full life. He will be dearly missed.
He was born February 27, 1927 in Beloit, Wisconsin the son of Clinton and Violet (nee Gardiner) Hughes.
John is survived by his loving wife of 72 years Jeanne (nee Higgins); daughter Carole (Michael) Hennessy of Chicago; grandchildren Matthew (Pamela) and Jonathan; great grandchildren Carter and Justin.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Clinton and Violet Hughes, and siblings Clinton, David and Diane.
The weight of his absence in our lives and in the world is enormous and difficult to bear. Though the celebration of his personal interactions, contributions, impact and the man he was is easy to celebrate.
His journey of independence began as a proud dropout of Hyde Park High School, a path that would later lead him to become a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks. As a young man his passion for baseball and golf were put on pause to enlist in the military during World War II as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. This value of service, doing your job to the best of your ability and helping others would become paramount in his life going forward. On the back end of his military service, he utilized the GI Bill to catch up on his formal education and became a razor-sharp CPA. Still driven by independence, he would start his own accounting firm in 1968 that continues to carry his name to this day.
He had a wide range of clients and became a trusted and dedicated financial advisor. One of his best-known local clients was Fannie May Candies, who he served for over 20 years. At a time when the candy company suffered the untimely loss of several long-term executives, John assumed the role of CEO. His knowledge and concern for the company was a great stabilizing influence during a very difficult time. John led a dedicated group of employees, and mentored the next generation, which included Michael Hennessy, significantly grew the company, and positioned it for the future. They created a culture where employees at every level felt valued and engaged as stakeholders in an operation that brought people happiness, particularly around the holidays.
John would also serve as President and CEO for the Coleman Foundation, a private charitable foundation, established by the early owners of Fannie May. He fiercely believed that self-employment changed his life and that it could do the same for a wide variety of others. He cherished the self-determination, self-advocacy, self-control and opportunity. He delighted in talking to groups of young people about the opportunities self-employment offered. He was a driving force in entrepreneurship education long before it became popular. These same tenants would come to influence the foundation’s other Chicago area programs in Cancer Care and, Developmental Disabilities. Simultaneously driven by independence and inclusion, there was always a focus to prioritize communities and people that were under resourced.
In 1991 John launched Hughes Charitable Foundation to pursue these same efforts and values. Hughes Charitable Foundation is a family foundation that has operated with these core missions and values as well as our love for the city and people of Chicago through multiple generations. John was a true pioneer, ahead of his time, and many stand on his shoulders today without knowing it. The plethora of people that he directly impacted is only surpassed by the number of people and efforts that don’t realize he helped pave the way.
We encourage you to capture every opportunity to tell your own champions and heroes how much you love and appreciate them. The best way for us to keep John’s legacy alive is to further embrace these values in our own work and personal lives. Let’s challenge ourselves to do better, to do more.
Thank you to all of our partners, allies, friends and family. We love you all. A proper celebration and service will be conducted at a time that does John’s life justice, and allows the welcomed engagement of everyone his life has so significantly impacted.
In the words of John, “adios.”
Burial will be private.
A celebration of John’s life will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorials would be appreciated to: Rush University Medical Center, 1620 W Harrison St, Chicago, IL 60612; Providence St. Mel, 119 South Central Park, Ave, Chicago, IL 60624 or The Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at DePaul University, 1 E Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60604.
Arrangements handled by Malone Funeral Home in Geneva. For more information, please call 630-232-8233 or visit malonefh.com.