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Robert Earl Hughes
June 4, 1926 to July 10, 1958
     Robert Earl started off life as a big boy, weighing 11¼ pounds at birth.  He was a normal child until the age of two, when he started to grow. By the age of 10, he weighed 375 pounds. Up until this time Robert attended school, but with the increase in his weight, he was not able to manage the difficult walk to school each day and so his formal education ended. The cause of his massive weight gain was placed on having contracted whooping cough as a baby, this leading to destruction of his normal body processes, leading to his weight gain. 
     Because of his size, Robert required a specially made bed and chairs to sit upon. Robert liked to go to the store and visit with everyone, and a chair was made for him to sit upon while he visited with the citizens of the town.
     With thoughts of being able to help support himself, and take some of the burden off of his family, Robert joined the circus at the age of 27. He traveled around for several years, putting himself on display for the coins that could be brought in. While he was in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, he became ill and was taken to the hospital. Being unable to fit on any of the hospital beds, the staff came to him inside his trailer, which was used to move him around. His condition continued to deteriorate and he died. He was buried in the cemetery of his home town, in a specially made casket to accommodate his size. And the life of the man who would hold the record for being the largest man alive would end, having weighed 1041 pounds at his heaviest.
     It would be easy to leave the story here, and stare at the pictures of someone this large. But pictures don't tell the whole story, it doesn't tell the story of the person inside the body.
     From everything we have been able to find during research, Robert Earl was a kind-hearted person. Being born to Georgia Alice and Abraham Hughes, he lived a life of contentment, even though the family was excessively poor. Robert was an avid reader, and would read anything he could find. People would bring magazines and books to the store, where he would collect them, and read them cover to cover. His mind seemed to absorb what he read and heard, and he was very intelligent. And Robert never seemed to feel sorry for himself. When he was in the 5th grade, he fell into a muddy ditch, and being unable to get himself out, a tractor with belts were required to move him from the mud onto solid ground. And the community never heckled him because of his size. They say that Robert had an average appetite, and that the bond he had with his mother was very special. And that loosing his mother to a stroke in 1947 had an impact on Robert that he never got over. His father died in 1957.
     He once went on a radio show, and said that one thing he would love to have was a camera. Well, someone sent him that camera, as well as a radio, and they became his constant companions. He had pen pals and would communicate with many people. Daisy Sheckelsworth provided him stamps, as well as paper and pencils, and was a life-long friend. She also arranged for a factory in Iowa to produce custom made overall for him, which he always wore. A shirt would require a piece of material 18 feet long, so it could be cut to cover him.
     Robert traveled around in his special made trailer, going from town to town. When in 1958 he first developed a rash and a fever, he remained in that trailer as the doctors tried to save him. They diagnosed the rash as Measles, and were not able to stop the progression of the illness. He developed congestive heart failure, and renal failure, and died at the age of 32. 
     The casket was made in Burlington, Iowa, and at the cemetery, a forklift was required to hoist the casket from the trailer to the ground. 12 pallbearers moved the casket along rollers to where he would sleep his final sleep, buried next to his parents.
     Robert Earl Hughes never blamed anyone for his lot in life, and treated everyone with kindness. The people around his town of Fishhook, Illinois didn't see a "fat" person, they just saw Robert Earl. The man who continued to walk around until the end, who had a ready smile for others, and who just believed that life was something to be lived, in whatever fashion you could. To you, Robert, we honor your life, your love, and the impact you had on your community. You are definitely a record holder in the book of life.
The  black and white photos posted here were obtained from locations on the internet and from a "Jungle Magazine" article. No copyright infringement is intended.
Robert Earl Hughes, once known as the heaviest man alive.
The resting place of Georgia and Abe Hughes, Robert Earl's parents.
Robert Earl in 1946, during the "Jungle" magazine interview.
Robert standing in the doorway of his house in 1946, during the "Jungle" magazine interview.
Robert Earl with his brothers.
The church which watches over the graves at the cemetery.
"Entering The Crypt"
By: Midnight Syndicate
From the CD: Cemetery Gates, 2008
used with permission of Midnight Syndicate
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