Thursday, April 6, 2017

Great Catholic Layman: Harold Hughesdon of the RAF

Rev. Mr. Harold Hughesdon, aka HHH, was born in London in 1920.  He grew up as an altar boy at Westminster Cathedral during the golden age between the wars.  In my youth I heard him speak many times of the glory of those liturgies, truly artistic achievements of long-standing English Catholic culture.

As a young boy in the choir school of Westminster, Harold served Mass for Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster, holding his amice for him while he vested for Pontifical Mass.  Cardinal Bourne died in 1935.  Harold was there.

A loyal son of the British Empire, Harold spent World War II in the RAF in Canada.  He was an officer, a pilot and a flight instructor.  He enjoyed aviation.

Through the contact of an American priest he had met in London (the priest had been studying in Rome, Fr. Walter Peters), Harold was invited to visit the city of Saint Paul, USA.  There he met and married Miss. Dolores Ettel, a parishioner of the church of Saint Agnes, where Fr. Peters had been living.  Both Harold and Dolores came from intense Catholic families.  They had five children. 

Harold was one of the first Latin rite permanent deacons in the world, ordained in 1981.  His assignment was St. Agnes.  It was there that I was enrolled as an altar boy and the great Deacon Harold became my instructor in the sacred rites.  He taught us much. 

I will forever be indebted to him for his mentoring and careful instruction of all things pertaining to the altar.  During my high school years we grew close and he had a profound impact on my liturgical formation.

Once Harold and Monsignor Schuler came beaming into the sacristy, aglow with their recent package from Rome - new Gammarelli solemn sets.  Harold was wearing his brown leather flight jacket.  It was circa spring of 1997.  They asked me to be the first to try on the crisp new white Roman chasuble.  It was a proud moment.  Last year I saw the same chasuble set, 20 years later.  It is definitely showing signs of good use, as it very well should.    

Harold made a big impression pulling up to the church in his long blue Cadillac.  We always missed him during his winter trips to Hawaii or occasional trips back to London where he stayed at the RAF Club.  We were told he had a world class Catholic library in his home.  Library science was his great love, second only to sacred liturgy. 

In your charity, kindly pray for the repose of his soul.  He was a great man.  I can still hear his voice ringing out from the pulpit, delivering the commencement address at my high school graduation.

My best Deacon Harold memory dates back to Dec. 8 in about the year 1996.  It was the morning after a severe Minnesota winter blizzard.  The roads were so full of snow only a crazy person would dare venture out.  I arrived through the side entrance of St. Agnes to find an empty church, just moments before Mass was to start.  Harold spotted me from the sacristy and rushed out to greet me.  We were both equally surprised to see the other had made it, alive.  In an empty church we had Solemn High Mass.  It was splendid.  That Mass will forever be my most memorable moment at St. Agnes.       

This is his obituary from 2012:

Died Peacefully at Home on Friday, June 29, 2012 Age 91. He was preceded in death by his brother, Flying Officer P. G. (Lex) Hughesdon, RAF, in 1945; his father, Percy Hughesdon, in 1956; his mother, Helen Upton Hughesdon, in 1981; and his beloved wife of 62 years, Dolores Ettel Hughesdon, in 2007. He is survived by three daughters: Helen Mary Hughesdon, Martha (Charles) Turner, and Cathy (Kent) Edwards; two sons: Peter G. (Beckie) Hughesdon and Joseph (Angela) Hughesdon; ten grand-children: Michael (Nisha) Turner; Liz Edwards (Scott) Hewitt and Maggie, Peter, and Nicholas Edwards; Jessica Hughesdon; and Andrew, Grace, Peter V. and James Hughesdon; two great-grandchildren: Laila and Owen Hewitt; and "adopted" daughter, Helen Wagner. Following his education at the Westminster Cathedral Choir School and Clapham College in London, he joined the RAF and attained the rank of Flight Lieutenant. During World War II, he was apilot and a flight instructor. After the war, he and Dolores moved to St. Paul, MN, where he earned a BS in chemistry from St. Thomas College and an MA in library science from the U of M. He became a librarian at St. Thomas and taught physics, chemistry, and library science there and at the College of St. Catherine until he began his 3M career in 1955. He worked primarily in the international division and retired in 1988 as director of 3M international's intellectual property portfolio, a job that used his science background, his knowledge of several European languages, and his patent law expertise, acquired in part while he coauthored An Outline of United States Patent Law (lnterscience, 1959). Ordained a deacon in 1981, he served St. Agnes Parish in that capacity for 30 years, primarily as master of ceremonies and trainer of altar servers; he also ministered to the sick and the elderly at Bethesda nursing home and Marian Center. His family is grateful to Dr. James Giefer for the expertise and understanding he showed while caring for both Harold and Dolores and to Ann Koenig Anaya for all she did to make their lives pleasant and comfortable, especially during their last years. Visitation at Willwerscheid and Peters Funeral Home, 1167 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-228-1006 from 4-7PM on Monday, July 2, 2012; Requiem Mass at the Church of St. Agnes, Lafond and Kent, at 10AM on Tuesday, July 3, 2012. Memorials preferred to the Church of St. Agnes or the University of St. Thomas.

1 comment:

  1. Harold will be lovingly remembered for his Easter Vigil reading from Exodus of the children of Israel going forward into the sea and on dry ground, making everyone smile at the repeated words "chariots and charioteers."