Sugar industry leader had long public service career


POSTED: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Robert Harrison Hughes, who worked his way from a shift sugar boiler to president of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association, died Oct. 2 at his residence in Honolulu. ;Robert Harrison Hughes

Hughes, whose early career occurred in an era when sugar cultivation was the main commercial industry in the Hawaiian Islands, was 91.

Hughes also had a distinguished career in public service, serving as chairman of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents as well as Hawaii Loa College, a trustee of the Hawaiian Historical Society, and chairman of the Friends of Lahaina Restoration.

In 1991 the American Association for State and Local History awarded him a commendation for his work in preserving historical records of Hawaii's sugar industry.

“;He was very public spirited person,”; recalled Philip Helfrich, a brother-in-law and retired director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

Hughes was born in Puunene, Maui, where his father worked as an engineer at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.

Hughes attended Maui Standard School, Maui High School and graduated with a bachelor's in science from the University of Hawaii in 1938.

He started work as a shift sugar boiler in 1939 at Hawaiian Commercial and later served as a superviso0r in various capacities, before joining C. Brewer & Co. in Honolulu as a vice president, eventually rising to serve as executive vice president and a board director.

Hughes served as chairman of various C. Brewer subsidiaries, including Kau Sugar and Wailuku Sugar Co., both from 1973-1980.

He is survived by wife Judith Dean Gething Hughes; son Robert; daughters Linton Breen and Carol Trefts; stepchildren Katherine Sabini and Elizabeth Gething; brothers Donald and Richard; sisters Barbara Cannon, Maybelle Helfrich and Nevis deLaveaga; and former wife Nadine.

Visitation will take place Monday from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Community Church of Honolulu, 2345 Nuuanu Ave., followed by a memorial service at 5 p.m.

On Maui, visitation is at 10 a.m. Oct. 22 at Kahului Union Church, followed by a memorial service at 11 a.m. Casual attire is requested, with no flowers.