The month of January brings Gerald “Gerry” Hughes to the spotlight. Gerry is 84 years old, born on February 2, 1936 in Canon City, Colorado, at home during The Depression. He was raised by his grandparents; George and Stella who had 6 children. His uncle, George Jr., was the only child living at home, so he and Gerry became very close. George Jr. was 10 years older, and Gerry looked up to him as an older brother. Gerry’s mother passed away when he was 10 months old. His father joined the Army in 1936, then the Navy in 1939.
Gerry remembers always having an adventurous side to him. When he was about 6 years old, he and 2 friends went off into the Royal George to explore. When returning home, his grandmother would be very upset. She asked him not to do this anymore, but soon learned this was what he loved to do and nothing was going to stop him. At the age of 8, Gerry had a paper Route in Canon City delivering the Canon City and Denver daily post. He started purchasing school clothes for himself at this time. He mowed lawns, and did anything he could to make sure he always had money.
At 12 years old and ambitiously driven, Gerry landed himself a job at Helm’s Drug store, six days a week. He started at 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., then literally ran to school, then after, finished his shift from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. If they were very busy, he would sometimes stay until 10:00 p.m. During the summer he worked 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Gerry received his Pharmacist Assistant License when he was 13 years old.
Working alongside his uncle, he learned how to work on cars. Together they took out and repaired the engine on a Model T. Gerry learned how to drive at the age of 12. With his job at the Drug store, he saved up enough money to purchase his first car at 14, which was a 1936 Ford. Gerry was saddened when he was driving down Main St., and was hit broadside, totaling his car.
Gerry attended Washington grade school, Roosevelt Jr. high school, and when he was 16 years old, he left Canon City high school to go to Railroad Agent School in Denver, Colorado. A Railroad Agent controls trains going back and forth. This sparked an interest to Gerry when he was trolling messages for the Royal George train. In the past, there were no radios for the trains. If they had to exchange messages, Gerry would stand on the railroad plat form with a long stem fork, and receive or deliver the hand written message with the oncoming caboose. This was a very dangerous situation. In fact, the conductor would have to basically climb halfway out to look and see if there was a messenger on the track. Another duty he highly enjoyed was when he and another workman would go up in a little putt-putt 1 seater vehicle, to move rocks and debris from the tracks. Gerry would ride on the ledge of the engine. They got to see Mountain Lions, Deer, Fox, Coyote, and Goats. While going to school in Denver, he worked for Brecht Candy Company. He enjoyed making taffy, chocolate turtles, jelly beans, cherry cordials, and many other confections.
When he returned to Canon City from Denver, Gerry worked for Joe Well’s Motor. He repaired trade-in cars, and got them ready for resale. Working here during the day, and at night he worked at the Railroad Depo.
Gerry married his wife Wanda in July of 1954 at the age of 19. Together they had four children; Julie who was born in August 1958, Ted who is deceased, in June 1960, Susan in October 1961, and Kristine in March 1963. He also has 5 grandchildren; 3 boys and 2 girls, and 2 great-grandsons. Wanda passed away around Christmas time in 2018.
He joined the military in 1955, and was stationed in Tokyo, Japan, where he worked doing Intelligence gathering. There he learned how to speak Japanese, and met a Tailor who made custom suits. Gerry had several made, which have his name embroidered on the inside of the coats. He was discharged in November 1957 and came to Pueblo after his time in the military.
After discharge, Gerry worked for Crews Begg’s Department store. He was the manager of the Men’s Department for 10 years, and took over the Boy’s Department when that manager left.
He had the “Mini Mac” McDonalds built on Northern Avenue in Pueblo. He owned 5 different locations. Four in Pueblo, and one in Canon City. This was back when you could get five hamburgers for $1.00.
He was very much into architect work design and had a house built for him and his family in 1961 in Pueblo, on 30th and Franklin Avenue. He also designed an “pie” shaped home built for a friend, which was a single-story home with four bedrooms, and three bathrooms. His first house he designed was for his Principal’s secretary when he was in High School.
Gerry has made several connections of Life. For example, here at Villa Pueblo; he was neighbors with both a housekeeper, and receptionist, and had one of our maintenance men as a McDonalds employee. His greatest connection of all was his wife Lila. After several conversations together, they discovered they lived about 3 blocks away from each other in Pueblo West. Lila remembers looking down her driveway and seeing a man walking with a large wooden walking stick. Now that they put their stories together, they both agree it was Gerry walking by. Not to mention he used to buy film, printing paper, and development chemicals for his photography work from Lila’s father Wayne who worked at Broom Brothers Photography in Pueblo on Main St. Gerry would go see him at least once, if not a couple times a week while he was doing photography. He took photos of weddings, birthday parties, and different family events, to earn cash while free lancing.
The first encounter Gerry had with Lila was when he and his friend Eldred were going back upstairs on an elevator after having supper in the dining room, and a woman got on the elevator. Gerry was bickering to Eldred about something, and he said “But who would listen?” Lila stepped on the elevator and said “I would.” They all laughed. With Gerry being legally blind due to his Macular Degeneration that started 17 years ago, he spent the next two months trying to listen and find this woman’s voice that resonated in his head. Gerry’s ears are very sharp, and he highly depends on voice recognition. It was on a Tuesday morning at Pastor Bob Swift’s bible study when he heard this voice he had been listening for. Gerry said to himself “there is that voice!”, not knowing that Lila was also legally blind herself due to the same eye condition that had developed 13 years prior, asked her if she would like to go walking. She declined. After a while, she thought about it and decided maybe she would like to go. They developed a friendship. He would bake chocolate muffins and leave them outside of her door.
Early September, Gerry was waiting for a call from his doctor. The phone rang and when he picked it up to his surprise, it was Lila. She asked if he would come up to her apartment so they could talk. Gerry was saddened, and had a feeling that his newly found friendship was going to come to a screeching halt. They had never been to each other’s apartments. When they met in Lila’s apartment, Lila proceeded to tell Gerry that there has been a lot of talk about the two. How they had been eating, and walking together a lot. She told Gerry “I think we should get married.” They were actually married twice. The first time was on September 16th. Then they planned a wedding for October 5th, for all of their friends at Villa Pueblo to enjoy. They had their friends Eldred Wolf, and Charlene True be their witnesses. We are very proud to have both Gerry and Lila be a part of our Villa Pueblo Family.