Toledo Irish: Thomas F. “Tom” McHugh R.I.P.
By Maury Collins
December’s Toledo Irish column was about former Mayor, John McHugh. Just before the December issue came out, John’s brother, Tom McHugh, passed away. Both brothers are a part of the Toledo Irish history.
Thomas F. “Tom” McHugh, age 87, of Mount Vernon, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, November 27, 2019, at the Knox Community Hospital with family by his side. He was born on May 13, 1932, in Toledo, Ohio, to the late James and Catherine (Ruddy) McHugh. He was the younger brother of John.
Tom had a very successful high school career. His nickname was “Ten yard Tommy” because that was his average gain per run. He received a full football scholarship to Notre Dame University, where was the second-string fullback, punter and kicked extra points.
1953 was Tom’s senior year at Notre Dame. That was the year that the Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy collapsed on the sideline, Johnny Lattner won the Heisman Trophy, and Notre Dame was undefeated, with one tie.
The game on Oct. 24, 1953 wasn’t supposed to be played in South Bend. The game was slated to be played in Georgia. But in the pre-Civil Rights era South, Georgia Tech wouldn’t host the Irish because two black players — Wayne Edmonds and Dick Washington — were on the Notre Dame team. So, the game was moved to South Bend.
Leahy collapsed and was given last rites by Father Edmund Joyce, then in his second of thirty-five years as Notre Dame’s executive vice president, before Leahy was rushed to St. Joseph Hospital. Notre Dame won the game 27 to 14. The following week Coach Leahy watched the game against Navy on television at his home. Notre Dame won 38 to 7 and Tom McHugh led all rushers.
Coach Leahy resigned at the end of the season for health reasons. While at Notre Dame, Leahy had six undefeated seasons, five national championship teams and an unbeaten string of thirty-nine games in the late 1940s. He finished his career with a record of 107 wins, 13 losses and 9 ties.
The year-end publication on the 1953 Notre Dame Football season said this about Tom; Tom McHugh was the most potent second-string fullback in the country this year. He averaged some five yards a crack in backing up Neil Worden. McHugh led all carriers in the Navy” contest and also starred by scoring two touchdowns in the North Carolina game. Chances are Tom would have been a starter on any other college team.
Tom was selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the 1954 NFL Draft He played one season for the Ottawa Rough Riders.
There was another Central Catholic graduate playing on that 1953 Notre Dame team. Dick Keller, right halfback, moved up to the second team post behind Johnny Lattner on the basis of his fine running in the last half of the season. He saw extensive action in the Navy and North Carolina contests.
His 77-yard run from scrimmage in the North Carolina tussle that was called back was the longest of the year for the Irish. He lettered as a sophomore, but developed emphysema and asthma and didn’t play again. He died at age 27.
Tom married his high school sweetheart, Ida Dorfmeister in 1956, returning to Toledo to become the head coach at Central Catholic High. He coached there for 8 years ending on 1964. His record was 51 wins, 23 losses and 4 ties.
His teams never finished below third place in the Toledo City League His greatest year was 1962. The team finished with the number 1 rating in Ohio and Tom was named the Coach of the year.
A player on his Central Catholic teams from 1958 through 1961 was John Keller, younger brother of his Notre Dame teammate, Dick Keller, Tom described John Keller as his best back. They remained friends over the years until John Keller passed away on May 31, 2015. An example of Tom McHugh’s loyalty and character; he would on occasion call John’s widow, Joan just to see how she was doing and to offer support.
Tom was elected to the Central Catholic Hall of Fame in 1983, along with Dick Keller. Dick’s brother John Keller was elected in 1992. John’s son, John, was elected in 2007, becoming the first father and son members of the Hall of Fame.
After leaving Central’s head coaching job,Tom McHugh went on to coach at Kenyon College from 1967 to 1983. He was selected Ohio Athletic Conference Football Coach of the Year in 1981. He also coached baseball and served as Athletic Director.
In retirement, Tom McHugh was chairman of the Knox County Democrats and served as a member of the Board of Elections. He worked on fundraising campaigns for the United Community Fund and for Easter Seals. Tom served on the Big Brother-Big Sister Board of Directors and was a key organizer in building the Mount Vernon Colonial City Classic College Basketball Tournament.
He also was a member of St. Vincent de Paul Church, The Knights of Columbus, The Notre Dame Monogram Club, The Old Homestead Club, The Moose, The Elks, and The Hiawatha Golf Club, where he was “chairman of the Round Table”.
Tom led a very productive life and is survived by his daughter, Kathy (Mark) Larkins and son, Kevin (Mary Ann); seven grandchildren, Claire, Roy, Christie, Erin, Mark, Alyjah, and Savannah; three great grandchildren, McKenzie, Aurora and Benjamin; and sister, Margaret Gibney. His wife, Ida passed in 2007.
May he rest in Peace.