Patricia Hughes, Md. first lady from 1979-1987, dies at age 79

  • Patricia and Harry Hughes shown in 1983.
Patricia and Harry Hughes shown in 1983. (Baltimore Sun file photo…)
January 21, 2010|By Brent Jones | brent.jones@baltsun.com

The wife of former Gov. Harry Hughes died in Denton early Wednesday morning after suffering for years from Parkinson's disease, according to the governor's campaign manager. Patricia Hughes was 79.

Joseph Coale, who worked on Mr. Hughes' staff in the 1980s and served as his campaign manager in 1978 and 1982, called Mrs. Hughes a strong-willed woman who counseled the governor on a variety of topics.

"She was always willing to provide" advice, Mr. Coale said. "Her standards were high, and she strove for perfection."

Mrs. Hughes served as a teacher for years before moving into the governor's mansion with her husband in January 1979. Mr. Hughes served as governor for eight years.

During that time, his wife was known for her community service and making Government House accessible and welcoming.

"She thought the mansion was a little pretentious," Mr. Coale said. "She arranged all of the public rooms to represent different periods in Maryland history. It was a tribute to Maryland art, Maryland history and interior design."

Gov. Martin O'Malley said Mrs. Hughes' service to her family and the state touched thousands of Marylanders.

"Anyone involved in public service in Maryland has seen Patricia's devotion to her family - her husband of nearly 60 years and their two children - and to the preservation of Maryland's natural and historical treasures," he said. "As a teacher, she believed in the dignity of every individual, and that every person has potential that we, as a community, have an obligation to help unlock."

Mrs. Hughes had battled Parkinson's disease for 16 years as her husband pushed behind the scenes for increased funding for stem-cell research, according to an archived Sun article.

"She was a very brave trouper and fought this thing as best she could," Mr. Coale said. "In the end, it takes its toll."

Mrs. Hughes is survived by the former governor, whom she married in 1951, and their two daughters. Mr. Coale said funeral services are tentatively scheduled for Sunday in Denton.

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