Community remembers Goshen coach Dee Hughes

Published 11:29 pm Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Rev. Rick Hayes, pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church, could say a lot of things about Dee Hughes. But on Wednesday what he most wanted to say was that she taught as much going out of her life as she did while she was here.

“Dee walked the last journey of her life with integrity,” Hayes said. “I am envious of how she walked the last leg of her life. She walked that last leg with her spirits uplifted.

“For Dee Hughes, there was no pity party. She always moved forward until the Lord called her home.”

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Hughes, 43, died in the early morning hours Wednesday after what many called a courageous and valiant battle against cancer. She had spent the past 13 years coaching softball and volleyball at Goshen High School, where former players, students and community members say her legacy and lessons run deep.

“Dee had a great relationship with the students, as well as with her players,” said Bart Snyder, a classmate from Troy University and fellow coach at Goshen. “She was an outstanding teacher and coach. She wanted all the students to be the best they could be at whatever they did.

“She was more than a teacher and instructor to her players. She was almost like a mother. She really cared about them and it showed.”

Hayes said he sat and talked Wednesday morning with the girls Hughes coached at Goshen High School.

“It was so evident that Dee taught with her life,” Hayes said. “She invested in young people the fundamentals that make you a winner, that don’t allow you to quit, that motivate you to give that extra ounce that you didn’t know was there, that give you the courage to go the extra mile.

“With her life, she taught the lessons that her girls will carry with them their whole lives.”

Yet, her influence reached far beyond the volleyball court and the softball field, in large part because of her priorities and strong commitment to faith and family.

“The students at the school, the faculty and staff were influenced by the way Dee lived her life,” Hayes said. “It will be hard to know the impact of Dee’s life until it’s missing. I listened as her players talked about her and each one had stories to tell. Some were funny and some girls said that she pushed them further than they thought they could go, so far they wanted to quit but she wouldn’t let them.

“The life lessons that Dee taught were phenomenal. In time, the impact of her teaching will be realized and it will be a good one.”

Like Hayes, Snyder said the way Hughes handled her battle with cancer showed her strength and her courage.

“I don’t know how to put it into words,” he said. “Dee was always so positive about everything and she was positive about having cancer. She was a kind, thoughtful and caring person. She was a wonderful mother and wife. She loved her family very much. She was more concerned about her husband, her children and her parents than she was about herself.”

Hughes and her husband, Mike, are the parents of four children and her survivors include her parents, three brothers and a sister.

Friends said her depth of concern and love for her family and her students was a hallmark of her character.

“(Dee) came with a big heart to everyone,” said long-time friend Mary Evans. “No matter where she was or what she was doing, she had time for other people. She was one of the nicest people you will ever know.”

She also had a profound impact on the community. Dan Smith, director of Troy Parks and Recreation, said Hughes was “an extraordinary teacher of pitching.”

“Whether it was high school or recreation softball, when it came to teaching fast pitch softball, Dee was the go-to person,” he said. “Dee was a hard worker and all of the girls gravitated toward her and responded to her. I have the utmost respect for what Dee has done as a coach and she has had a very positive and strong presence in the community.”

At Goshen, Hughes taught her students about hard work on and off the field. “Dee was involved in the community,” said Traci Shaver, Goshen Town Clerk. “Any time there was a community event like cleanup day or a parade, anything that her players could be involved in, she had them there … Dee put her heart into everything she did. She was totally involved with her own kids and her kids at school.”

At home, she taught her family about life and priorities. “She was the same at home as she was everywhere,” said Lynell Grant, who was close to the family for 16 years. “She was kind and loving and caring. For Dee, her faith came first, then her family and then ball.”

Hayes said Hughes loved her family unconditionally and he admires the strength her family has shown – strength that mirrored hers.

“Dee shared her faith and lived what she believed,” he said. “Dee had faith in the permanent healing the comes from Him as she stands today.”

Visitation for Dee Hughes will be held Friday with a funeral Mass and services on Saturday.