JAMESTOWN — Burnes Junior Hughes was a man who would deliver oil to a customer at
People called him Junior, and he could be seen most days at his Main Street business, Hughes Oil Co. and service station. In recent years, he liked to watch the traffic in front of the station from a worn easy chair and chat about how much times had changed with other men his age.
He was a man who bought tickets to church suppers and never even used them. And he trusted his customers to pay him when they could.
Hughes, 78, died Jan. 20 at his home. He was buried Jan. 22 with full military honors at Guilford Military Park. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer around Thanksgiving and had refused chemotherapy and radiation treatments. His son, Dana, said he had accepted his fate and was ready to die.
“He was losing weight, but it’s hard to get him to go to the doctor or anything,” Dana Hughes said. “He said he was ready to go on home.”
Junior Hughes continued to deliver oil to customers through December. He’d even made one last delivery to longtime customer and former Ragsdale High School principal T.G. Madison. Madison noticed a change in his friend.
“He had slowed down a lot and he did not look as healthy as he had been,” Madison said.
Still, Dana Hughes marveled that his father was able to do the job. The big white oil truck doesn’t have power steering and is hard to drive, Dana Hughes said.
“It’s a bear to drive — even at my age, it’s a bear to drive,” he said.
Junior Hughes, a Virginia native, was a Marine during World War II. He joined the military, with the support of his parents, when he was just 15. Enlistees had to be at least 17 to join, so he lied about his age.
After his service, he returned to work in the coal mines of Virginia.
His family said he came to Jamestown in the late 1940’s and worked for a while at Oakdale Cotton Mill before purchasing the service station from his uncle in 1952.
The business was open daily through the 1970’s and at one time customers could purchase anything from a sack of coal to a loaf of bread. His son, Danny “Peanut” Hughes, bought the business from him in 1998, but Junior continued to run the oil business.
His sons say he was generous to a fault. He gave away everything from his services to a round of drinks at a local bar.
Sometimes this caused a rift between him and his son, Dana.
“He gave oil to anybody even though he knew and I knew they wouldn’t pay him back. He’d take checks from anybody — no matter who they were. Even if they were from out of town,” Dana Hughes said. “He was a hard worker, but he gave a lot away. A lot more than I ever thought about. He was more trusting than I ever have been or ever will be.”
Peanut Hughes said the business won’t be the same without him.
“He was like the president or a landmark. I miss him already,” he said.
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