Saturday, July 5, 2008

Reminiscing on Robert Earl Hughes: Dorothy (Carter) Gillis

I received a phone call from Dorothy (Carter) Gillis, 81, telling me of her encounter with Mr. Hughes. It turns out that she was one of the last tourists to see Robert Earl on exhibit. It was early July in 1958 as she and her family were traveling from Springfield OH and stopped with her kids at a carnival where REH was showing.
"We saw him and the kids were just amazed," said Mrs. Gillis. "We talked with him for a long time. He was just so pleasant and as sweet as could be and he sounded quite intelligent."
While there, she was told to keep her distance though as they feared that he had just contracted the measles. Those who have read the book know that this was quite likely the last day he ever exhibited.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Reminiscing on Robert Earl Hughes: Kay Berry Parker

As I suspected, after the release of the book, I was contacted by an individual I wish I had found prior to its publishing. Kay Berry Parker was the great niece of Lillian Hughes and Wesley "Whistle" Dennis, Sr., Robert Earl's care-taker and road manager. She has the unique distinction of being able to say she was babysat by Robert Earl Hughes. The extended family would often gather together and -- possessing several members with musical talent -- play music together in a jam style (...and drink beer, she added).
The children would stay in a different room and were frequently watched by Robert Earl. She was 10 years old when Robert Earl died, but she has fond memories of him. She remembers her relatives playfully teasing him about when he would get married. The reply she most clearly remembers is, "I will when I find a woman that can reach around me." When asked if he he wanted to partake with the other adults in some beer, she remembers him saying, "I ain't going to drink any of that horse pee!"
"I remember Robert as always being happy," said Ms. Parker. " I can never remember a time when he wasn't happy. I was so young that I didn't understand what all the fuss was about him at the time. He was just Robert Earl to us. I remember that whenever he would show at the state fair that we would all get free passes to all the rides. Even then I didn't grasp why all these people wanted to see Uncle Robert...but at that age I was just happy for the tickets."
Just as many do with the likes of JFK and MLK, Ms. Parker can remember exactly what she was doing when she heard that Robert Earl Hughes had died.
"We were driving in Taylorville when they came over the radio and announced that Robert Earl Hughes, the heaviest man in the world, had passed away. I was ten and knew what death was, but had never had anyone close to me die, so I am not sure I fully grasped the situation. As such, my parents did not allow me to attend his funeral, as they were affraid it would be filled with people only there for the freak aspect of the whole thing."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Robert Earl Hughes Left Big Pants to Fill

This wonderful photograph was given to me by the Griggsville Area Genealogical and Historical Society. It shows (L to R) Florence (Dorsey) Walker, Stella Hannant and Edith Dorsey demonstrating just how large Robert Earl Hughes' special-made overalls were. The photograph was taken after Hughes' death.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Young (Fuzzy) Robert Earl Hughes

While this picture was a bit too fuzzy to use in the book, I thought I would include it here as ever image of Robert Earl Hughes is a valuable one. The back of this pic has handwritten on it "Robert Earl Hughes - 24 -800 lbs". I highly doubt this though. It was perhaps written when he was 800 lbs and 24 years-old, but from my research, I believe the picture shows him at about 14-15 years of age when he was approximately 500 lbs.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Year with Robert Earl Hughes

One of the many tributes to Robert Earl Hughes that did not fit into his biography was a unique piece of Hughesian memorabilia from 1982. Produced by Enoch Ham as an advertisement for his Fishhook "Mall" (a humorous title to anyone who has been in the one room general store), it was a low-budget calender for that year. It featured one of the photographs Hughes used to sell at his appearances in his last two years...the same image later utilized for the nice tribute-stone now in Fishhook, Illinois. I was blessed to have been given a copy of this calender when I spoke on Robert Earl in Pittsfield, Illinois.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Helping Robert Earl Hughes See

In the last years of Robert Earl Hughes' life, he was able to afford the glasses that he so badly needed most his life. Very few physical artifacts that belonged to Robert Earl still exist today due to a tragic fire at his family's home that engulfed his albums, books, clothes and walking stick. However, what did survive are his glasses. I was thankful to get to see and handle them when I visited the Hughes' farm in Emden, Missouri.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Robert Earl Hughes in Denmark

In the final chapter of my book, Robert Earl Hughes: The Largest Man to Ever Walk the Earth, I looked at the multitude of tributes that have been made to Mr. Hughes, including many different statues. One I missed though can be found in the Guinness World Records Museum in Denmark. Here can be found a unique sitting statue as seen below: