Bench Plea for Dad

Please accept my application to place a memorial bench in the park for my father. Some of you may not have known him (although you think you did), so please allow me to introduce you to my late father, Mr. Raymond B. Hughes.

Born in the summer of 1947 to Claude F. (U.S. Navy) and Marion F. Hughes on Reservoir Hill, the family struggled to make ends meet for most of his young life. He had an older sister, Jan (Wagner), and an older brother, Claude B. Hughes. There was never an abundance of food except during and after hunting season, and I’ve been told that if one of the kids was late for dinner, they didn’t eat. His grandmother was half Native American, and he always not only resembled that race, but cherished the Earth and studied the findings of Native Americans in terms of uses for herbs, natural cures, etc.

His parents loved every one of their children, and worked hard to make it work up there on the farm. My father was always sensitive and peaceful, when his older siblings would fight, he’d go and hide, one time causing his parents to believe he’d been abducted until they found him sleeping in a cabinet. Dedra and Durinda’s births ousted my Dad from his “baby of the family” status, which I think was a little hard for him.

My grandfather was a hard working man, who knew how to do many things, including cook, hunt, fish, write eloquently and raise livestock. Grandpa had trouble being kind at times, and my father was very sensitive. He took everything said to him to heart. My grandfather was the Superintendent of Roads for years for the town, a position from which he retired. My grandmother worked at Mercury all of her working life.

My father, as he grew, took on the “Black Sheep” of the family role, and was danger-proned and impulsive, I believe, because he had a low self-esteem. He believed that men should be taken care of by women, and he refused to clean his own room (his whole life). His mother, then his sister, and then my mother and his two other wives kept things clean for him, and I did in the divorced years. The reason I say this is because many of you saw my Dad in his work clothes, some of you may have seen his house or barn and figured he was just dirty or didn’t care about hygiene and that was not true. He suffered from depression much of his life, and refused to seek help for it. He believed in natural cures, and had a deep distrust of pharmaceutical companies.

Dad was very smart. I don’t have his IQ score to prove it, but I know one of his younger sisters tested very high, in the 140 range. He didn’t always apply himself in school because he was good looking, funny, and popular, having fun was more important to him than good grades. He went to college at SUNY Cobleskill, interested in farming, and not too long into his career there, he was in a terrible accident that crippled him for life. He was a passenger in the car that hit a tree head on. He told me many times that he had a near death experience, that he was given the choice to leave or stay and he chose to stay. He almost lost a leg in the days that followed, but my grandpa arranged for a specialist to be flown in to rearrange tendons to keep the leg on. He was in pain from that day on – 50 years of pain. He then had many other accidents, like falling off a roof (in front of me – age 3), crashing cars, black ice crashes, many falls, many injuries, and didn’t dare wear shorts because his leg was so marred people would pick on him. But he kept smiling, he kept working, and he kept going.

He began his career as a viticulturist in the 1980s. He was a natural, and through his father’s teachings and his father-in-law’s (Whitney “Jake” Bailey) he knew a bit going in. He worked for Dr. Frank planting many of the vineyards there that now flourish. He worked for McGregor’s, planting many of the vineyards there that now flourish, and he worked for Keuka Lake Vineyards after retirement and until the day of his death. He traveled to Europe more than once, to learn about their grape growing methods (and for leisure as well). He served as a consultant on several vineyards throughout the 90s and 00s – his opinion was highly valued, and he wrote a book that I have to put some finishing touches on and publish that will be a valuable resource to anyone wanting to have a vineyard in the Finger Lakes. He worked on Seneca Lake at Chateau Lafayette Reneau Vineyards for a bit as well. Many of the wines he grew the grapes for have won medals, are highly sought after, and fetch a handsome price. The plants he planted on the hills surrounding Keuka Lake and Seneca Lake (and beyond) continue to produce high quality fruit, leading to high quality wine, leading to a never-ending stream of tourists from May-November every year in and around Hammondsport.

He had one child. He helped to raise me to be a respectful and contributing member of society, to have love and respect for the Earth, my elders and myself. He helped me through my travels, college and graduate school. He loved me very much and was very involved in my life, maintaining a strong life-long friendship with my mother. I hold a Master’s Degree in Education, and am working toward a 2nd Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. My father always wanted me to “help people” as he did. Every job I’ve held has been helping people in some capacity. I am now raising his two grandchildren in much the same way he helped to raise me. They are five and three, and he thought they hung the moon. They adored him too.

What I’d also like for you folks to know, is that he saved the lives of many of my generation in various ways. He would go pick anyone up who called him, if they couldn’t drive because they’d been drinking. He’d give anyone a job, or a hand if they needed it. He’d stay up all night counseling those with emotional instability. He shared everything he knew with my friends and was our protector, often serving as a surrogate father to those whose fathers were less emotionally available. Several men from that area and around that area credit my father with teaching them values, and instilling a work ethic in them.

My father never wanted to “marry a car.” In other words, he refused to be a slave to a dealership. He bought cars others would scrap, and he tinkered with them, often successfully, and kept them running longer than anyone would have imagined. It was his hobby. So he never drove a nice car, he didn’t dress nicely most of the time, and he’d tell you exactly what he thought of you if you deserved to hear it. However, that man had a heart of gold, was as sensitive and thoughtful as anyone I’ve ever met, and loved Hammondsport dearly. He had offers to move so many different places, Florida, France, the Carolinas, Ohio, California, but he stayed, and the area is better for it.

My father never really received the respect he deserved. He died lonely and sad, suffering from COPD and heart failure. To protect himself from the meanness of others he became a hermit, and therefore although he died on Independence Day, was not discovered until July 6th. He was so dear to me, and dear to the other folks in that town that knew him well, including the Mayor, Trustees, Bankers, Teachers, Business Owners and others. He could have gone anywhere and done anything, but he chose to help make that area what it is today. Please grant my request to place a bench in Pulteney Park in his memory.

Thank you,

 

Heather (Hughes) Sensabaugh

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