Patricia D. Hughes, who as Maryland's first lady actively supported women's causes, the arts and educational initiatives, was a key adviser to her husband, Gov. Harry Hughes, and led the way in an accurate historical restoration of Government House, died early Wednesday at her Denton home of Parkinson's disease.
Mrs. Hughes was 79.
"She was a wonderfully courageous lady who in recent years battled her health challenges with her husband by her side," Gov. Martin O'Malley said Thursday.
"She was a very strong woman who epitomized class and who had a deep appreciation for both art and architecture. She brought great dignity as Maryland's first lady and was the kind of first lady that people like to see."
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski recalled yesterday that "Pat was a loyal and faithful partner in the governor's public life and a leader in the community. She will be missed."
Mrs. Hughes, who had been a fixture on the Maryland political scene for more than 50 years, was born Patricia Donoho, in Milford, Del. The daughter of educators, she was raised in Seaford, Del., and Crisfield.
After graduating in 1947 from the National Cathedral School in Washington, Mrs. Hughes studied languages while at Bryn Mawr College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1951. She studied at the Sorbonne in 1949 as an exchange student.
She later studied French language and literature at the University of Delaware, where she earned a master's degree in 1969.
In his 2006 autobiography, "My Unexpected Journey," Governor Hughes recalled meeting a striking young woman in the living room of his Denton boyhood home, where she was being tutored in French by his mother. That young woman would become his wife.
"I liked her, but she went off to the National Cathedral School in Washington that fall and I didn't really see her much until the fall of 1948, when she invited me up for a dance at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia, where she had entered as a freshman," Governor Hughes wrote. "That was our first date. By the summer of 1949, we were dating regularly."
He credited her with encouraging him to consider a career in law and attend law school. They married in 1951.
While her husband completed his final year of law school at George Washington University, Mrs. Hughes worked for Armed Forces Security, a government agency that was a forerunner of the National Security Agency.
From 1952 to 1953, Mrs. Hughes taught elementary school in Caroline County public schools, and during the late 1960s, was a teacher at Chesapeake Community College and the Country School in Easton.
Mrs. Hughes participated in her husband's political campaigns, beginning with his election to the House of Delegates in 1954, state Senate in 1958, his losing race in 1964 for Congress and the gubernatorial race that culminated with his election as governor in 1978. Governor Hughes served two terms.
"I first got to know the then-Senator Harry Hughes back in 1963. He was a wonderful and thoroughly decent person, as was his wife, Pat," retired state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said Thursday.
"When Harry ran for governor in 1978, Pat organized ZIP Trips, which meant we'd take buses to different ZIP code areas and campaign. They were very effective," Mr. Curran said.
"She had a lot to do with the organization of the campaign and played a splendid role. Pat was very much a part of the Hughes administration before there even was a Hughes administration," he said.
"She was a charming person to have dinner or simply talk with. She knew how politics worked in the state, and she did it very well," Mr. Curran said. "Pat was a thoughtful, warm and caring person, and a very important asset to Harry."
Joseph M. Coale III managed Governor Hughes' two gubernatorial campaigns and later served as a close staff adviser.
"Pat was a very definitive person. She was very exacting, and she could always get to the bottom line very quickly. She was, in many ways, a perfectionist," Mr. Coale said.
"She had very high standards, and while [she and her husband] didn't always agree on issues, he valued her counsel over the years," he said.
Mrs. Hughes garnered national attention when she undertook a $1.5 million restoration during the early 1980s of seven ground-floor rooms of Government House, the official 54-room Annapolis residence of the governor and his family.
Mrs. Hughes secured the aid of the Maryland Historical Society and the Friends of Government House, which raised the necessary funds; no government funds were used in the restoration.
After moving in, Mrs. Hughes received news media attention for her candid description of the governor's residence as a "bastard house," because it originally had been built as a Second Empire-style mansion and then remodeled into a Georgian Revival-style country home in 1936.
Mrs. Hughes didn't mince words when it came to describing the mansion as being "shabby."