Leonard McHugh

Obituary of Leonard McHugh

Leonard (Lenny) Bernard McHugh

Surrounded by family, Lenny died peacefully on June 12, 2017.   Lenny was born on October 12, 1930, in New York City, to the late Pierce Anthony McHugh and Florence (Ulrich) McHugh. He is preceded in death by his wife of almost 61 years, Edna Pineda McHugh;  newborn son, Leonard Benjamin;  brothers Russell, Kenny, Walter, Clifford and half-brother George, and half-sister Margaret.  He is survived by his daughters, Colleen Colangelo (Mark) and Tara Daniels (Edmund); granddaughters Erin Colangelo, Heather Daniels,  Meghan Marsolais (Matthew), Jessica Daniels, Caitlin Colangelo, Kaylin Daniels, Brooke Daniels; nephews Rick Grundmann (Diane) and William Grundmann (Lori), and grandnephews Ryan and Kyle Grundmann. 

Lenny lived his early years in New York City, until the age of 8.  Family circumstances necessitated the placement of the school age siblings Walter, Russell, Kenny, Leonard and Clifford in a children’s home outside the city in Spring Valley, NY.  They lived in cottages, separated by age, staffed by a married couple.  He lived there until age 18, attending the area public school and high school.  He was on the high school wrestling team, and won the Rockland County championship for his weight class.   Lenny attended the same high school as his future wife, Edna.  Edna was outgoing in high school – cheerleader, majorette, and basketball player, while Lenny was shy and the smallest and youngest in the class.

In 1948, upon high school graduation he enlisted in the Air Force, fought in the Korean war, and was trained as a Control Tower operator.  While he was in the service, he wrote incessantly to Edna – who humored him and wrote back.  When he returned stateside, they started dating and were married on January 12, 1952. He completed his service and was honorably discharged in September, 1952.  With the training he received in the Air Force, he obtained a job at the Civil Aeronautics Administration as an Airway Operations Specialist in Poughkeepsie, NY and then at La Guardia Airport.   In 1955, he obtained a job as an Air Traffic Controller at the Air Route Traffic Control Center in Oberlin, Ohio and moved his family to nearby Elyria, Ohio.  While raising his family, Leonard was active in the American Legion, served a term as president of the Profession Air Traffic Control Organization (PATCO), volunteered as a Red Cross instructor, and enjoyed playing softball on the work league.  It was obvious to Lenny that computers were the future and he took an active interest in their incorporation into the air route traffic control system and taught himself programming. 

In 1969, he left Air Traffic Control, transferred to the FAA, Department of Transportation, in Washington DC and moved his family from Elyria, Ohio to Alexandria, Virginia.  He travelled occasionally to Canada to discuss automation and practices with the Canadian controllers.  Leonard also served as Post Commander at the Alexandria Legion, Post 24, and was also very active in the Elks Lodge, coordinating their move from old town Alexandria, to their new Route 1 location. He could also be seen on his morning jog with his German Shepherd, Velvet.

He retired from the FAA in 1985 and started a small consulting company JHEM, named after his 4 granddaughters at the time.  The consulting company was active for a few years, until he decided to truly enjoy his retirement.

Family was most important to Lenny.  He was a strict father, but a present, hands-on father who stressed the importance of education, and imparted his love of reading. He adored his 7 granddaughters, spending a lot of time reading to them, teaching them magic tricks, challenging them with logic puzzles, and giving them bear hugs. He was always interested in their school progress and encouraged them in their careers. He was known for his “papa quotes” and the granddaughters created a book of his quotes, illustrated with photographs of them with him.  Their love for him was obvious – as soon as they heard he had taken a turn for the worse, they all travelled to spend the last weekend with him.   As one granddaughter said, and echoed in the other granddaughters’ tributes, “besides sharing with us his unforgettable quotes, he gave us so much more than that; unconditional love, lots of wisdom, the importance of education and never giving up, love for all things Irish, love for books, lots and lots of bear hugs, and most importantly, he stressed the love of family.  You gave us everything that you didn’t have as a child.”

Services at Arlington Cemetery will be held at a later date and information will be posted as available.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Edwin Gould Services for Children and Families, which funded the Childrens’ Home where Leonard lived from age 8 through age 18 (www.egscf.org).