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Published: Sunday, 9/5/2004

Former Toledo basketball star directed Sofo Foods' logistics

Jim McHugh, 51, a basketball star at St. Francis de Sales High School and the University of Detroit who put his knack for figures to work as director of logistics at Sofo Foods, died Friday in his West Toledo home.

Family members did not know the cause of death. He mentioned stomach pain on Monday and stayed home for three days. He was found in his home Friday when he did not report to work, his brother, Tom said.

Mr. McHugh was at Sofo for about 10 years, back home working with longtime friends after working in Bloomington, Ill., and Cleveland.

"He was brilliant at getting trucks to the right spot at the right time," his brother said. Some used to joke that "he could add up a pinball machine before it stopped spinning," his brother added.

His sister, Sarah, said: "He had a brilliant mathematical mind. What he liked about working at Sofo was he was working with friends. He knew their families, and they knew his family."

Mr. McHugh in childhood shot baskets at home with his father and played on elementary school teams.

He was just over 6 feet tall and, on the team at St. Francis, he was known as an outstanding outside shooter and for his rebounding ability.

"He had a lot of competitive instincts for winning," his sister said.

In a weekend series in 1971, he scored 52 points - 27 points over Whitmer High School and, in another game, 25 points over Start High School.

"He was just a naturally gifted athlete," his brother said. "He had a deadly jumper from the baseline."

Mr. McHugh was left-handed, which he used to his advantage, because "everybody assumes you go right," his brother said. "He was smart enough to outthink everybody too. He had probably as many rebounds as points. He played the angles."

Mr. McHugh received a full athletic scholarship to the University of Detroit, where he was a guard on the basketball team. In his sophomore year, Dick Vitale was hired as head coach, and "the two hit it off wonderfully," Mr. McHugh's brother said.

In Toledo speaking engagements, Mr. Vitale has "always singled out Jim and recognized the contribution he made to his teams at the University of Detroit," Mr. McHugh's sister said.

He graduated from UD with a degree in finance.

Mr. McHugh liked to golf and to watch sports, especially University of Notre Dame football.

Surviving are his mother, Rosemary; sister, Sarah McHugh, and brothers, Tom, Terry, Tim, Phil, and Dan McHugh.

The body will be in the Ansberg-West Mortuary after 3 p.m. tomorrow, with a recitation of the Rosary at 7 p.m. in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Historic Church of St. Patrick, of which he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the Rev. Thomas A. McHugh scholarship fund at St. Francis de Sales High School.



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