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James Kenneth Hughes
July 6, 1938 ~ November 7, 2023 (age 85) 85 Years Old
Jim Hughes used to tell his grandkids that he read the obituaries every day to make sure he wasn't in them. Well, Dad, you finally made it. Jim, 85, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family on Tuesday, Nov. 7. He was deeply loved and will be missed by his large extended family and by everyone who knew him.
James Kenneth Hughes was born July 6, 1938 in Greenup, Ill., and spent his childhood in Anderson, Ind., where his father had a shoe repair shop. From his earliest years, Jim worked to help support his family, delivering newspapers, working at a local grocery, and raising rabbits. Despite hard times, Jim always managed to keep a jar of change in his bedroom, and he could always find a dime to go to the movies on Saturdays with his friends.
He married Penny Nichols of Anderson on December 16, 1962. Working nights at a car factory and commuting to classes in the day, he graduated from Ball State University that same year. He moved to South Bend after being recruited by local business leader T. Brooks Brademas. He attended graduate school at the University of Notre Dame, and in 1974 he founded Hughes Associates, a city planning consultant firm in Mishawaka. Over the next decades Jim worked with small communities throughout southwestern Michigan and northern Indiana to plan and fund affordable housing projects, public infrastructure, hospitals, parks, and recreation spaces.
Jim was an active community leader and a longtime member of the Lions Club. He served for 25 years on the board of the South Bend Airport Authority. Jim was reflective, thoughtful and empathetic, but at the same time had a sharp, dry sense of humor and was quick with a quip or a witty remark. He was an avid reader, a natural storyteller, and a great listener, always glad to meet new people, and always genuinely fascinated by people's lives and work.
More than anything else, Jim loved his family. He was close to his three children, caring, proud, and interested in everything they did. He stayed close to them when they moved away and was always a rock of support to them. He welcomed their spouses into the family and made his home an inviting gathering place for multiple generations.
His seven grandchildren loved their Poppo for his warmth and humor. He was full of memorable little sayings, greeting them with “Hi huns, how are you?" and asking "How's your baby self?" He always treated them individually, with real concern and affection, and he was there to celebrate their accomplishments and life milestones. At the same time, he could be hilarious and ironic, affecting a playful grumpiness that made him even more endearing, and which will be the subject of family stories for years to come.
He was an anchor for his large extended family, and hosted gatherings of siblings, nephews, nieces and cousins during summers and holidays, the most recent of which celebrated his 85th birthday in July. His warmth and empathy, and his easygoing, personal connection made him a treasured uncle, brother, and in-law.
Jim is survived by Penny, his wife of 60 years; their children, Scott (Lisa) Hughes of Mishawaka, Shari (Paul Rodes) Hughes of Bloomington, Ind. and Stacey Hughes of Atlanta; and seven grandchildren, Betsy, Emma, and Zhibo Rodes, Sophia and Ava Gershman, and Ella and Zaehn Hughes. He is also survived by his sister, Anita (Tony) Zabilka of Lady Lake, Fla.; brother, Jack (Ronna) Hughes of Anderson; sister-in-law, Anna Hughes of Mishawaka; and by numerous nieces, nephews, and in-laws. He was preceded in death by his parents, Kenneth Hughes and Margaret Eloise (Rigg) Hughes, by two brothers, John and Jerry Hughes, and by his nephew, Aaron Hughes.
Private services will be held. Contributions in Jim's memory may be donated to the charity of the donor’s choice. Palmer Funeral Home-Guisinger Chapel is assisting the family. Online condolences may be offered to Jim’s family at www.palmerfuneralhomes.com.