This Buds for Hugh, Still

In the recent passing of Hugh M. Sims, Jr., our industry lost a great one. If you couple that with the loss of Walter O. Larson, Jr., earlier this year, then 2004 is shaping up to be a tough year for this industry’s retired leadership. Both men have been inducted into FOUNDRY’s Hall of Honor, and it was on the occasion of Sims’ induction in 1995 that I wrote an editorial entitled This Bud’s for Hugh, which appeared in November of that year.

What follows is excerpted from that 1995 piece.

“I recently journeyed to Birmingham, AL, to present Hugh M. Sims, Jr. his award at a luncheon held in his honor. I first heard about Hugh shortly after I joined FOUNDRY, and I had seen him at the AFS shows in Chicago and Kansas City, but this was the first time I ever met him in person.

Most of you probably know about this entrepreneur and former AFS and FEF president. He already had two strokes and open heart surgery before September 1991, when he was to have the first of seven more strokes during a five month period. He had two “biggies” in November of that year, during which time the attending physician told his wife, Jo Ellen, to make a decision on a cemetery plot and asked permission to do an autopsy. The strokes robbed him of his sight, his speech, and most of his motor skills.

It was against this backdrop of information that I anticipated Hugh’s arrival for the award luncheon. Finally, Jo wheeled Hugh into the room and the introductions were made. Hugh’s handshake was firmer than mine, he took the ribbings from his friends and associates with humor and in stride, sometimes offering some quips in return, and most of what he verbalized I understood. It was soon apparent to me that this man did not have the heart of a lion — he had the heart of a pride of lions. Hugh’s strokes took a lot, but they didn’t take his spirit, his mind, or his courage. It occurred to me that though I never knew him healthy, I still had the privilege of meeting him whole.

If he wasn’t, he would not have spent the last six months laboring over his memoirs, entitled One Foot in Heaven and One Foot in Birmingham. Hugh generated this 90-page summary of his life and his illness, one painstaking Word Perfect letter at a time, on a specially equipped computer that speaks back the characters as they are typed. This is not the action of a broken spirit, but that of a leader. And, incidentally, his manuscript came in looking cleaner than a lot of stuff we see.

Some words about Hugh’s wife are also in order. If FOUNDRY had a Hall of Honor for industry spouses, Jo Ellen Sims would be its sole charter inductee. I would see to it. She is a gem and a walking definition of the word “caregiver.” Her strength, love, devotion, and quiet self assurance are inspiring.

I thought I was going to Birmingham to give an award. Instead, I got lessons in the meaning of courage, the indomitability of the human spirit, and the power of love. I thought I was going to Birmingham to meet some new people and maybe make some new friends, but I left feeling part of the family.

Over a Bud Lite and Monday Night Football after the October AFS Birmingham Chapter meeting I met a fellow named Tom Walton. Having explained to him why I was in town, he responded, “Hugh Sims brought me into this industry. He brought a lot of guys in.” To me, that spoke volumes about Hugh’s impact on our industry.

The staff of FOUNDRY Management & Technology offers its condolences to the Sims and Larson families. The industry that Hugh and Walter once served will survive, but the void they left will be felt for a long time.

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