Life Story / Obituary
Hugh Tyler’s deep tenor voice often rang out in defense of the liberal arts, in calls for equality in education, or simply in a well-delivered punch line. He was passionate about education, and spent his life fighting for both educational equality and academic excellence. Hugh’s dedication was a byword, and he was equally devoted to his ideals, his community, and his beloved family. Throughout a long career as a teacher, administrator, father, grandfather, and friend, Hugh touched many hearts; his passion, dedication, and kindness will continue to inspire all those who had the privilege of knowing this remarkable man.
Proud parents Hugh A. and Flora (Hood) Tyler welcomed their son Hugh Herbert into the world in the midst of the Roaring Twenties, on September 26, 1925. The Tyler family lived in Coldwater, Michigan, where Mr. Tyler was a businessman and Mrs. Tyler a homemaker. Hugh had a typical small-town childhood, and enjoyed hunting, fishing, and spending time with his three siblings – Jane, Alphonso, and Betsy.
Tragically, Betsy died when she was only four years old, and Hugh’s mother passed away when Hugh was 12. Hugh’s father worked hard to support his family – often 12-hour days, 7 days a week – and the task of raising Hugh fell to his older siblings. Four years later, tragedy struck the family once again: Alphonso, serving in New Guinea during World War II, was killed in the line of duty.
During his high school years, Hugh excelled in athletics, and participated in sports from football to boxing. He drove a multi-colored model A – his “unit” – that was his pride and joy, and loved cruising around town. During Hugh’s senior year in high school, however, he dropped out of school. While his dad thought he was going to classes, he was actually working selling car parts, and later loading boxcars.
Like so many young courageous men of his generation, Hugh decided to serve his country by joining the U.S. Marines during WWII. He was injured twice in the course of his duties, and earned two Purple Hearts, an American Theater Campaign Medal, and an Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal. It was while he was in the military that Hugh gained new insights into his own life, and resolved to go back to school once he was back home.
After an honorable discharge, Hugh stuck to his plan and earned his G.E.D. He then went on to Western Michigan University, where he would earn his bachelor’s degree. It was in a drama class at Western that Hugh met the woman who would be the love of his life – Dorothy Creason. Hugh was assigned the task of doing Dorothy’s make-up for a play in which she played the leading role. After doing Dorothy’s make up for that opening-night performance, Hugh gathered up the courage to give her a good-luck kiss. The rest is history, and despite a difficult first date (Hugh got an extreme case of poison ivy), the two were smitten. Dorothy eventually proposed to her beloved Hugh while perched on a porch swing, and the happy couple was united in marriage on November 23, 1950.
As the years went by, Hugh and Dorothy were blessed with six children: Stephen, Matthew, Daniel, Woodrow, Laura, and Mary. They were a tight-knit bunch, and loved doing all kinds of activities together. Hugh and Dorothy took the kids on many memorable vacations, including trips to other states, Uncle Walt’s hotel on Houghton Lake, and Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary’s fruit farm. Hugh was a wonderful father, who was always there for his children, and never missed a sporting event or activity. He loved debates, and would often gather his kids together, start a debate, and then sit back and listen.
Hugh’s life calling was education, and he taught high school speech and drama for many years. Later, he would go on to work as a public school administrator, and served as Superintendent for schools in the St. Joseph and Muskegon area. He was recognized repeatedly for his excellence in teaching and administration, and his many awards included those from Michigan Alliance for Arts Education the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing, and the Boy Scouts of America. In 1989, Hugh was elected into the Michigan Education Hall of Fame.
As an educator, Hugh valued fair and quality public education for all. He was relentless in his quest to not just even the educational playing field for all American K-12 students, but also to elevate that playing field. He felt that the American educational system needed great reforms to ensure that all high-school students could attend quality colleges, regardless of income. As a former high-school dropout himself and the father of six children, Hugh and Dorothy made it one of their life goals to make sure every one of their children earned at least a four-year college degree.
In addition to his unceasing efforts in education, Hugh was also active in many community organizations. Some of his positions included President of the Muskegon-Oceana Chapter of the American Red Cross, President of Goodwill Industries of Muskegon County, member of Muskegon County Community Foundation Education Committee, and member of the First Congregational Church UCC. His activism was tireless, and he volunteered for the Muskegon County Community Foundation Education Committee, the Children and Adolescents Service Executive Committee, the Muskegon area African American 1992 Celebration Planning Committee, among others.
After Hugh’s retirement in 1990, he and Dorothy traveled extensively with friends, exploring countries from Germany to Turkey to Australia. Closer to home, Dorothy and Hugh were both thrilled to become grandparents, and love spending time with the grandchildren. Hugh also enjoyed golf, tennis, reading, and participating in Muskegon’s History Club.
Hugh’s devotion to his wife was inspiring and, really, almost the stuff of fairy tales. “Dorothy, what can I get you?” “Dorothy, do you need anything?” or “Ask your mother. Whatever she wants, she should get” were refrains that Hugh must have said several times each day during their more than 55 years of marriage. All of their kids knew that Mom ruled Dad’s stratosphere; so much so that, later in life when Dorothy developed Alzhiemer’s but Hugh was still very much able-bodied and able-minded, Hugh slowly began to drop many of his own social and professional engagements so that he could simply take Dottie for a ride in the car or sit by her side. Hugh felt strongly that, if Dorothy could not be by his side for some activity, then it wasn’t really worth much of his time and energy.
Thoughtful, honest, professional, and dedicated, Hugh was a devoted husband, a loving father and grandfather, and a tireless advocate for public education and the liberal arts. He will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered by his many friends and family members.
Mr. Hugh H. Tyler died on March 30, 2013, at the age of 87. Hugh’s family includes his sons, Stephen (Kathy) Tyler of Kalamazoo, MI, Matthew Tyler of Lathrup Village, MI, Daniel (Lisa) Tyler of Chicago, IL, and Woodrow (Maureen) Tyler of Ann Arbor, MI; his daughters, Laura Tyler of Seattle, WA, and Mary (Mark Zettell) Tyler of North Muskegon; his grandchildren, Laura Ann Tyler, Stephen Tyler, Claire Tyler, Sam Zettell, Nick Zettell, Erin Zettell, Joseph Tyler, Daniel Tyler, and Michael Tyler; his great granddaughter, India; his sister, Jane Randall of Coldwater, MI; and several brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Dorothy, on December 1, 2008; his parents; and his brother, Alphonso.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 13, with visitation 1 hour prior to the service at the Clock Chapel – Muskegon. Rev. Tim VanderHaar will officiate. For those who wish, memorial contributions may be directed to the Community Foundation of Muskegon County Educational Fund. Please visit Hugh’s personal memory page at clockfuneralhome.com, where you can learn more about his life, share a favorite memory or photo, and sign the online guestbook.