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Lives Lived: Colin Hughes, 59 Add to ...

Dad, husband, champion, advocate, musician. Born Dec. 15, 1953, in Toronto, died Feb. 1, 2013, in Toronto of heart arrhythmia, aged 59.

Colin was born in Toronto East General Hospital nine minutes behind his twin brother, Mark. He always maintained that he pushed him out. Colin had a quirky sense of humour. He loved to tell a joke or funny story and was always the first to explode in booming laughter.

Colin dropped out of school in Grade 10 to hitchhike across Canada and the United States. This experience sparked his lifelong passion for understanding poverty and being an advocate for social justice. Colin believed he could make a difference, and he did.

In 1975, while studying social work at Cambrian College in Sudbury, Ont., Colin met the love of his life, Teresa, or “Rose,” as he called her. Their early days were spent exploring campgrounds across Canada. In more recent years, you could find them reclining on a beach in Cuba with a cerveza in hand, or in Colin’s rowboat, the Leaky Pokey, cruising down the Rouge River.

In 1982, Alana, the second love of his life, was born. The family lived (briefly) in an adults-only building, where he would sneak her down the elevator. This experience inspired him to become part of the campaign to change the human rights code to ensure that families with children had equal rights to housing.

As a stay-at-home dad, Colin juggled textbooks and essays with baby bottles while completing his Bachelor of Arts at York University and later his Master of Social Work at the University of Toronto.

Throughout his career, Colin was a tireless champion on behalf of vulnerable communities, families and children. He was relentless in his defence of human rights and succeeded in empowering those without a voice. He spent 25 years at the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto as a community development worker. He was valued and loved by colleagues, and mentored countless young community workers and students.

“Shoot for the stars, land on the moon” were Colin’s unforgettable words of inspiration to Campaign 2000, just one of the numerous anti-poverty and childcare coalitions in which he was involved. Colin won two awards posthumously, the Francis Lankin Award for Community Service and the Toronto Public Health Champion Award for his unwavering commitment to improving the lives of children, youth and their families.

One of Colin’s proudest moments was at Alana’s wedding last October. He boasted to colleagues that not only did she marry a great man, but she married at City Hall despite childhood threats of a bank-breaking princess wedding.

Colin first picked up a trumpet in the Cadets as a young teen. The regimentation of the Cadets did not strike his fancy, but his love of music was born. Although the cello was his favourite, he would play any instrument he could get his hands on. He didn’t stop until he could call himself a one-man band. On summer evenings, Colin’s beautiful notes travelled across his neighbourhood.

Colin died at home surrounded by his instruments.

His spirit, music and work live on.

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