LIMA — With her 2-year-old son, Hal, perched on her hip, an obviously proud Carrie Hughes smiled for The Lima News photographer in a photo from the Dec. 9, 1945, edition of the newspaper. Behind her is the reason for the smile and the photograph — rows of makeshift shelves stocked with jars of fruits and vegetables she had harvested and canned from her garden “at the rear of the gray shingle house” just east of Shawnee school.
Hughes, the accompanying article explained, had just been named the Champion Adult Gardener of Ohio by the National Victory Garden Institute. Victory gardens, which first appeared during World War I, were reinstituted in World War II to boost morale and, in a time of strict rationing, the family food supply.
“In addition to maintaining a fine home for her two children and growing the best garden in Ohio,” the News wrote, “Mrs. Hughes is leader of a 16-member Girl Scout Troop, a 10-girl Brownie pack and finds time to fill in as a substitute teacher at the Shawnee schools. Hughes, whose husband had been an officer in the Navy since 1943 and had yet to be discharged in December 1945, was “one of Allen County’s busiest women,” the News wrote.
And she didn’t slow down for years. Hughes joined, supported or became the leader of many worthwhile causes. She seemingly couldn’t say “no” to need. When she died in April 1982, the News described her as the founder and first director of Lima’s Senior Citizen’s Center, but that was only one of her more recent accomplishments.
Hughes was born Carrie Marie Lehman on April 4, 1907, in the Wayne County village of Kidron, the daughter of Jacob J. and Caroline Hofstetter Lehman. After graduation from Dalton High School in 1925, she borrowed money for her freshman year at Bluffton College, according to the November 1981 edition of the publication The MVS Connection.
“She completed her college degree by installments — a period of teaching, one year at Ohio State University at Columbus, another period of teaching, two years at Bluffton College and more teaching. She graduated from Bluffton College with an art major and minors in biology, home economics and English,” The MVS Connection wrote.
On Oct. 3, 1936, she married Lima native and fellow Bluffton graduate Paul Hughes and moved into the “gray shingle house” just east of Shawnee school, where her husband taught and coached. The couple had three children, Hal, Jeannie and Heather.
In the decades after World War II, Hughes worked with the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Brownies. She led the Shawnee band parents and served on the school’s PTA. She helped organize a Shawnee branch of the YWCA and, when the Allen County fair board was forming its first Junior Fair board in 1949, she served as an adviser.
She was an officer of the Lima Friends of the Library, served as a trustee and in various other positions with Bluffton College, was a member of the Audubon Society, the League of Women Voters and the Allen County Historical Society.
In the 1950s, with the polio virus still unchecked, Hughes began working with the March of Dimes campaign. Annually, it seemed, she would be named to head the campaign, or lead recruiting or simply knock on doors seeking money to fund the research of Dr. Jonas Salk into a vaccine. She was still working with the campaign in the early 1970s.
Hughes told the News in July 1963 after she was reappointed state volunteer adviser of the National Foundation (the March of Dimes) that she “became interested in doing something for someone not as fortunate when I was in college,” describing her work as a form of giving. “What I cannot give in money, I can give in time,” she said. “If I can give my time, at least I am giving something.”
That giving had extended to Lima’s servicemen’s canteen in 1958, when Hughes was named its director. The canteen, which stood near the intersection of the Pennsylvania and B&O railroads, had been in operation since 1942, serving hot meals and snacks to military personnel passing through Lima on passenger trains. “The canteen has continued here since the war despite the discontinuance of similar ones throughout the country,” the News wrote on March 5, 1958. “It is now believed to be the only one in the United States.” The canteen remained open until 1970 with Hughes serving several terms as its director.
On June 11, 1958, she was named Woman of the Year by Soroptimist International of Lima. “Mrs. Hughes was chosen for her outstanding contributions to the community over a period of years,” the News wrote. “This year, Mrs. Hughes organized the Allen County Mothers March on Polio and was elected to head the servicemen’s canteen. She has been active for 18 years in the Shawnee YWCA council, serving as president for the past two years. She is currently a member of the district board of the YWCA. In addition, she has been president of Shawnee Parent Teacher’s Association for the past year.”
After her husband’s death in June 1964, Hughes returned to education, teaching at Perry, Cridersville and Lima schools. She also worked at the welfare department and with the agency on aging. In July 1967, she was appointed executive director of the new Lima Senior Citizens Center and resigned as a teacher in the city schools.
Hughes served as head of the center, at the time located in the 100 block of West Spring Street, until June 1970. During that time, the center grew to nearly 1,000 members. And, even though she had announced her retirement, Hughes wasn’t through giving. The News reported that she planned to continue her social work through the volunteer program of the Mennonite church.
That program took the indefatigable Hughes to Cincinnati and Whitesburg, Kentucky, where she operated a daycare center for children from 3 to 5 years of age and made family service calls to area residents. In September 1971, after her return from Appalachia, Hughes told a group of friends at the Senior Citizens Center, “I learned a lot and enjoyed it thoroughly.”
By Thanksgiving that year, Hughes was back helping at the Senior Citizens Center, helping prepare a meal for 30 seniors who found themselves alone on the holiday. “Too often elderly persons are considered cantankerous and bothersome,” Hughes told the News on Nov. 25, 1971. “I have found this is far from the truth.”
In July 1981, Hughes was selected Allen County’s Outstanding Senior Citizen for 1980. She died April 16, 1982, at the age of 75.
“I’d like to live it all over again,” Hughes had told The MVS Connection five months before her death. “People are so grateful for the things you’ve done. People are so nice. They really are.”
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.