Toledo Irish: `John McHugh R.I.P, Mayor of Toledo from 1990 to 1993
by Maury Collins
John McHugh was born in Toledo, Ohio on October 1, 1930 to James and Catherine McHugh. His mother Catherine grew up poor in Ireland and married his father, James, in 1928. John’s first job was setting pins in the neighborhood bowling alley.
John devoted his life to public service, serving as Jury Commissioner, Lucas County Recorder, Lucas County Treasure, Chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, Past President of the Old Newsboys Good Fellows Association and as Mayor of the City of Toledo from 1990 to 1993. After his retirement from politics, John embarked on a career in real-estate development. John McHugh, age 84, passed away peacefully on Friday January 30, 2015 in the Elizabeth Scott Community in Maumee Ohio after a brief illness with cancer.
Two days after John McHugh died, Mayor Mike Collins’ auto was found crashed into a pole. Mike had suffered cardiac arrest. On February 3, 2015, I attended a visitation for John McHugh and followed to a prayer service for Mike Collins. Mike died on February 6, 2015 This was not the first time the Collins and McHugh families had two deaths so close together.
Within a week, two Toledo Mayors had passed away. They were both sons of Irish Immigrants and related. Katherine McHugh was a sister of Martin Ruddy, who was married to Ellie Collins Ruddy.
John McHugh was succeeded as Mayor by Carty Finkbeiner, who was elected to his first four-year term in 1993 under charter changes, endorsed by Mr. McHugh, which gave executive authority to the mayor and expanded the size of city council, with members elected by district and at-large. John often said he was an advocate for the change, and he made the call explicit in his 1992 State of the City address, saying that voters needed “a real voice in how our city runs. … One leader, one point-person, the power to lead – not be led by the bureaucrats protecting their own turf.”
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins was a Toledo police officer and president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association when Mr. McHugh was mayor. He made a statement to the Blade earlier about John McHugh. “John’s legacy to the city was his level temperament,” said Mr. Collins, who noted that they are distant relations.
Mr. Collins said that in his own experience as a government employee and elected official, Mr. McHugh ranked as the worthiest “to have been given that title of all the persons, including myself, who has held that office.”
Now for the rest of the story. Jimmy and Catherine McHugh were very good friends with my parents, Maurice and Katie Collins. There was a fairly large close knit group of Irish Immigrants in Toledo at the time. March of 1979 James and Maurice were both in the hospital seriously ill.
On St. Patrick’s night, I was with my Mother visiting my Father. It was close to the end of visiting hours when Catherine came to my Father’s room and asked if I could drive her home. She said John and his brother, Tom must be out celebrating and forgot about her.
There was no way for her to call them, so I drove her home. Ten days later, March 27, 2059, both James and Maurice passed away. Arrangements were made at two different funeral homes and the visitation and funeral days and times were set for both of them before the two families knew about the fact that both gentlemen had died on the same day.
Visitations and funeral times were exactly the same times. I visited the funeral home to offer my family’s condolences to the McHugh family. The petitions at my Father’s funeral Mass included prayers for James “Jimmy” McHugh and his family.
At Mike Collins’ funeral, I thought about those past events and about what a wonderful country we live in. One extended immigrant family starting in poverty could produce two first generation Irish American sons, who though hard work, were able to become the Mayor of Toledo.