Monroe Hughes, 64, worker at VA hospital, gospel singer

March 19, 2001|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Monroe Hughes, who sang classical and gospel music in church and community choirs, died Friday of lung cancer at Fort Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where he had worked for 24 years. He was 64.

Born in Spartanburg, S.C., the son of a Baptist minister, Mr. Hughes moved to Baltimore with his family in 1953.

After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School in 1957, he joined the Army, where he was a driver and heavy equipment operator. The 12-year veteran was stationed in Korea and Germany, and served in the Vietnam War.

In 1975, Mr. Hughes began working at the Fort Howard hospital, where he held several positions, including nursing assistant and driver. He retired in 1999 because of health problems.

Singing was Mr. Hughes' passion, and he was involved with several local choirs.

He had no formal voice training but grew up singing.

"We were the children of a Baptist minister," said his sister, Alberta Hughes Smith of Baltimore. "We always had to sing in choirs."

From 1980 until last year, Mr. Hughes was president of the Olivet Sanctuary Choir at Olivet Baptist Church in West Baltimore, where he was a member.

For years, Mr. Hughes, a baritone and bass, regularly sang Handel's "Messiah" in the One Voice Ecumenical Choir at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and in the annual concert for the United Baptist Missionary Convention of Maryland.

"You couldn't help but notice my brother, he was 6' 7"," said Judson Hughes of Baltimore. "He stood out up there."

About three years ago, Mr. Hughes traveled to South Korea with singers from Baltimore church choral groups.

"He was devoted to his church and music," said Pamela Edmondson, who sang with Mr. Hughes on the Korea trip and in the United Baptist Missionary Convention choir. "He was a quiet soul, but he had a wonderful sense of humor."

For 25 years, he helped elderly members of Olivet Baptist Church attend the choir's performances and other church activities by driving them in his van. He stopped his van service in 1999 because of health problems.

"He took people back and forth, to church and senior groups," Mrs. Smith said. "He never took gas money. His passengers would bake cakes to pay him."

Mr. Hughes was a member of Chapter 16 of Disabled American Veterans and Post 4438 of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Olivet Baptist Church, 3500 Edmondson Ave.

In addition to his brother and sister, Mr. Hughes is survived by a daughter, Miriam Cariesha Hughes, and another brother, Bennie L. Hughes, both of Baltimore.

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