LIMA — Melvin Hubbard served his country during World War II and his community for a half century afterward.
Hubbard was a member of the NAACP and served on the boards of both Bradfield Center and the Allen County Council on Aging and received numerous honors for his work in the community. A member of St. Paul AME church, he was a member of the church’s male choir, director of the senior choir and served on the church trustee board.
When he died at the age of 80 in October 2001, Daisie Gibson, then president of the local chapter of the NAACP, recalled that Hubbard “made himself involved all over Lima. He was a little bit of everything, and everyone will miss him everywhere they go.”
The Rev. Christopher Ferguson, pastor of St. Paul AME in 2001, described Hubbard as someone who would never say he couldn’t do something but would try anything and always with a smile on his face. “He was such a tender-hearted guy.” Ferguson told the News. “I never saw him mad about anything or with a frown on his face.”
A frown likely would have told Hubbard a lot for, besides everything else in which he was involved, Hubbard was a well-known local artist, toting his drawing board and pencils throughout the Lima area sketching portraits. “I can tell a lot about a person just by looking at their mouth,” Hubbard told the News in a September 1991 interview, adding, “The mouth is the most important part of a person’s face. I can detect a person’s nature by the expression of their mouth.”
Hubbard was born Jan. 28, 1921, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Frank and Cleo Thomas Hubbard and spent his boyhood in Detroit. On Feb. 24, 1946, in Chicago, he married Frances Hunt. The couple, who were married 55 years, were the parents of two sons, Sterling and Brandon, and three daughters, Deborah, Valerie and Cynthia. When Mrs. Hubbard died in April 2015, the family remembered her on the Jones-Clark Funeral Home memorial page. “As a volunteer for the United Service Organization she met and was able to boost the morale of a handsome young man on military leave in the States. They shared a passion for the arts. On Feb. 24, 1946, she married Melvin Hubbard (with) whom she shared 55 years of love and blessings until his sudden passing in 2001,” the family wrote.
“While Hubbard always drew, it wasn’t until he graduated from high school and was in the Army that he was encouraged to go public with his art,” the News noted in 1991. “I was always drawing in my schoolbooks,” Hubbard said. “Then while in the service I was asked to draw cartoons for a military newspaper called The Star.” Hubbard said his cartoons and drawings appeared under the title “As I See It.”
In 1951, Hubbard and his young, growing family moved to Lima, the hometown of his mother. He found a job at Teledyne Ohio Steel before retiring from there in 1983 and also operated Mel’s Sign Painting Service for many years. He was also one of the original members of the Lima Art Association.
It was as a member of the art association that Hubbard, who had attended the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Institute of Hawaii, not only went public with his art but also often went out in the public to create it.
“Barring an act of Nature — like a cloudburst — Lima will have its first Sidewalk Art Fair Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” the News wrote Sept. 28, 1955. “A Bohemian atmosphere will waft over this community setting downtown in the picturesque Petticoat Lane, located on the west side of North Main Street between High and North streets,” the News wrote on Sept. 28, 1955, adding that, seven “smock and beret-clad artists” would “sketch quick portraits of passersby in charcoal, pastels and pencil.”
Hubbard was among those “smock and beret-clad” portrait artists on that day, as he would be on many other days as a member of the art association, sketching portraits on sites as varied as the sidewalk at the intersection of North and Cole streets, the Shawnee Country Club, where he did caricatures of attendees at the 1965 Lima Symphony Guild ball, and the annual Once Upon a Sunday art show.
“It has been interesting to see the growth of people whose portraits I did years ago,” he said in 1991. “I’ve now done portraits of children and grandchildren of some of those people.”
Hubbard was influential in bringing art to Lima in other ways, helping organize art shows at Lima shopping centers and creating backdrops for Encore Theatre productions. He passed his passion along to others through art classes at the Lima Senior Citizens Services and the Lima YWCA. He was a volunteer art teacher at Lima Senior High School.
Hubbard, who carried a sketch pad nearly everywhere he went, told the News in 1991, “When I’m not drawing, I am always looking.”
And when he was not drawing, he often could be found singing. “Hubbard also is known throughout the Lima area for his talent as a singer,” the News noted. “He sings bass and was one of the wise men in a 1989 Lima Civic Chorus production of ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors.’” He also was often a guest soloist at area churches and sang at weddings and funerals.
“I feel blessed in that I’ve enjoyed life and other people. I have no complaints,” Hubbard told the News in 1991.
When he died in 2001, George Dunster, then program coordinator for Senior Citizens Services, noted that Hubbard “was just a tremendous human and everybody loved the man. He will be missed.”
Reach Greg Hoersten at email@example.com.