The St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows, athletic community is mourning the recent loss of two members of the school’s Red & Blue Terrier Ring of Honor.
In late October, cross-country/track and field coach Jim McHugh, 94, and star basketball player Joe Hughes, 91 — both of whom left a lasting impact at the Prep — passed away. McHugh was a World War II veteran, having served in the U.S. Army Air Force during combat missions in Japan. After graduating from St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, in 1950, he arrived at the Prep as a teacher and began coaching track.
In his 12 years, his teams captured 29 consecutive major titles along with eight CHSAA city championships: two in cross-country
and three each in indoor and outdoor track. His relay teams set national records in the 1-Mile (1958) and 2-Mile (1954, 1957 and 1961).
McHugh also guided his teams to five Championship of America titles at the prestigious Penn Relays. Ed Kennedy, who competed in all 12 track seasons at St. Francis Prep from 1953-1957, was a member of four of those championship Penn Relay teams.
“We achieved so much athletically under Jim,” said Kennedy, who knew McHugh for nearly 70 years. “Jim was one of the main blocks of energy that we all stood on.”
McHugh moved on to Manhattan College, the Bronx, where his teams won nine Metropolitan Intercollegiate titles and his runners shattered 17 of the 26 previous track and field team records. He also spent 12 years as a U.S. Olympic Committee administrator.
In addition to being inducted into the CHSAA and Manhattan College Halls of Fame, McHugh was an inaugural member of the Red & Blue Terrier Ring of Honor in 2014. In 2007, Kennedy along with fellow track alumnus Dan Corry established a scholarship in honor of McHugh and his late wife, Bernice, for senior track student-athletes at the school in good academic standing.
While McHugh carved out an impressive legacy as a coach, Hughes made his name on the Prep’s basketball court. The 1948 graduate was team captain as a senior on a team that won the CHSAA city championship. Hughes — nicknamed “Jumpin’ Joe” due to his 42-inch vertical leap — twice was named to the All-Brooklyn team and once to the All-City team. He was recruited by St. John’s University, Jamaica, coach Frank McGuire and led the Johnnies in scoring his freshman year.
He then transferred the University of Denver, where he led the team in scoring and was selected to the All-Conference. Following his junior year, Hughes was drafted by the NBA’s Syracuse Nationals — the modern-day Philadelphia 76ers. Instead, he opted to play the next five years for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots of the National Industrial Basketball League.
After co-founding Carquest Auto Parts in 1972, Hughes became dedicated to expanding the business to 2,700 stores across the U.S., Mexico and Canada. He also was dedicated to his family: his wife, Susan, of nearly 60 years; 11 children, of whom six are adopted; and 17 grandchildren.
Hughes remained a lover of sports as well. Once his basketball playing days ended, he got more involved with handball and tennis. “We always knew he (Hughes) was into sports and very athletic and very competitive,” said Hughes’ daughter Tari Hancock.
“For basketball, we heard some of the stories, but the stories definitely got bigger and better with the grandkids.” For the last 10 years, Hughes — a 2017 inductee into the Red & Blue Terrier Ring of Honor — joined a fantasy football league with his grandkids, which allowed him to further bond with the next generation over sports — even if he wasn’t as skilled technologically.
When asked recently what he was most proud of in his lifetime, he replied, “My family and what they are doing with their lives. They are all honest, hardworking people.” He also credited basketball with setting him on the right path.
Both Hughes and McHugh will forever remain part of the L’il Terriers athletic family. We mourn their passing while also celebrating their lives simultaneously.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.