Worcester/Monson-Hugh Graham passed away on Wednesday, May 6th at Knollwood Nursing Center in Worcester, MA. He was born July 18, 1929 in Cambridge Massachusetts to John and Edna (Sullivan) Graham. On July 9, 1955 he married Phyllis Guilford of Adrian, MI. He is survived by Phyllis and their seven children: Martha, Hugh Jr., Mark, Steven, James, Matthew and Peter; their loving spouses, 12 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren. He joins his brothers John and Eugene and his great grandchild Leah LaCroix in the hereafter.
Hugh's father, an immigrant and well-respected schoolmaster in Cambridge, MA, died just before Hugh turned 12, leaving his mother, a school teacher, to raise him and his two brothers. Hugh graduated from Cambridge High and Latin school in 1946 and immediately enrolled in the army to serve in post-war Japan. There, as a 17-year-old, he witnessed first hand the devastating results of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The suffering of the victims of radiation burns and poisoning left an enduring impression on him. After being discharged from the army, he was determined to further his education and enrolled in Brown & Nichols preparatory school, graduating in 1949. He was accepted to Harvard College and began classes there that fall. At Harvard, he studied history and political science and played hockey on the freshman team.
After graduating from Harvard in 1953, Hugh traveled to Aspen, CO where he met and fell in love with Phyllis, who would become his companion for nearly 65 years. They moved back east to Monson, MA where Hugh got a job as a teacher in the public high school. He received a Master's of Education from Boston State College in 1962.
Raising a family was foremost in Hugh and Phyllis' hearts and from 1956 through 1968 they realized their dream with a girl and six boys. Hugh was dedicated to his family, spending all his free time with them to share his enjoyment of camping, hiking, sailing, skiing, and playing tennis. A Ford station wagon and a pop-up camper were all he needed to instill a love of country and outdoor adventure in his seven kids. They all have fond memories of long trips across the country visiting the National Parks.
In Monson, Hugh became principal of the elementary school and president of the Monson Free Library Association where he oversaw the expansion of the library in both its building and its offerings. He was very active in church life, teaching catechism classes, working for Catholic Charities, serving in the Knights of Columbus and as a Eucharistic Minister for St. Patrick’s Church. He was active in civic life as an outspoken proponent of fairness, helping to secure retirement benefits for town employees, driving people to the polls, and championing social justice issues. In particular, he was an advocate for integration of schools and worked to gain Monson schools’ participation in METCO, a volunteer program in the late 1960s and early 70s that gave African American children access to well-funded schools outside of their own poorly funded districts.
Hugh was an educator at heart instituting field trips for Monson school students, modernizing the curriculum and being an advocate for teachers. For 20 years, as head of the town's driving instruction program, he taught hundreds of young people the essential skills of how to drive safely. Even his leisure time was dedicated to learning, sharing his love of history and civics with his family by taking yearly trips to walk the Freedom Trail in Boston.
Raised by a single mother, Hugh had great respect for the rights of women and he spoke often of the accomplishments of his mother and his aunts who were successful professional women in 1930s. These strong women were his mentors and role models. The dedication and sacrifices Hugh made for his family are evidence of the loving and nurturing spirit they passed on to him. Through his example he has passed the same spirit on to his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In retirement Hugh continued to travel with Phyllis and pursue their loves of tennis and alpine skiing. He reveled in the success of his children, all of whom sought higher education and have found love and success in their own ways.
Hugh's honest, loving and generous spirit left a lasting impression on all who knew him. A Memorial Service will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Monson Free Library in his name, 2 High Street Monson, MA 01057.
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Monson Free Library
2 High St., Monson MA 01057