“To people who have met him once, heard stories, or that knew him best, they know that the only way to describe him is to say that he was completely himself — he is Jake,” graduate student Paige Howard says.
Jake Allen Hughes would have celebrated his 20th birthday Sept. 23, but on Aug. 27 Hughes took his own life.
Hughes was a sophomore psychology major who had an interest in art and was the secretary of his fraternity, Alpha Kappa Lambda.
Karen Hughes, Jake’s mother, says he was an outgoing individual who was comfortable in his own skin, and though he could be impulsive, everyone knew Jake for his kindness and his desire to make everyone feel included.
“It was kind of a gift that he could reach out to people so easily — it didn’t matter if it was adults or kids, he has always been able to speak with people, even when he was younger,” Karen says.
Karen says throughout Jake’s life and since his death, she has heard many stories about his kindness for others and the way he was able to serve people.
Karen says one story she heard was from a mother who had Jake as her server at the Pizza Hut where he worked during the summer. The mother had her children with her, and told Karen that Jake was so delightful, she and her children remained in the restaurant for an extended amount of time, Karen says, long enough that her husband questioned their whereabouts when they arrived home.
Karen says Jake’s giving personality was evident in high school as well.
“At the end of high school, he and another friend did an elaborate event where they handed out lemonade to the students,” Karen says. “There had been some other students who had pulled a rather destructive senior prank that caused some damage, and he didn’t want the senior class to be remembered for something negative, and so they did the lemonade event.”
Although these occurrences were later in Jake’s life, Karen says his kindness was part of him from an early age.
Thomas Bevan, Jake’s best friend since third grade, says if Jake hadn’t been so kind they would not have been as close.
Bevan says the two met in third grade when Bevan was new to the school district. Although he and Jake sat next to each other in class, the two became close after Jake’s ninth birthday party. Bevan says they were all playing at Jake’s house when another kid talked him into stealing $5 from Jake because Jake had been gloating about how much money he had. Later that night, he says his father received a phone call from Jake’s parents about the incident.
“We were over there that night, and I gave Jacob his money back, and I says I was truly sorry and apologized to his parents,” Bevan says. “In that instant, Jacob truly forgave me and then we went upstairs to play Legos. That one act of forgiveness has had so many consequences. I have traveled miles and miles to see Jacob — it’s crazy to think that because I stole $5 from Jacob, we became inseparable to one another.”
Bevan says Jake’s birthday changed their lives and led to them being more than just friends but instead, brothers.
Bevan says in grade school they would meet at the pencil sharpener just to talk, which is why it was so difficult when Jake moved to St. Louis in fifth grade. Bevan says it was the second worst news he received in his entire life.
“In that instant, I hated [St. Louis] — he wasn’t even gone yet but I hated that place,” Bevan says. “But, even though we didn’t live in the same place, we were still active best friends. We went through countless vacations together.”
Bevan says one memory they reminisced about together happened after Jake’s move. During sixth grade, Bevan’s father surprised him with a trip to St. Louis, where he surprised Jake. Bevan says the second he and Jake got together, they hugged and it was like no time had passed.
Bevan says Jake was one of the happiest people he knew who loved everybody around him, and everybody loved him.
“Ask anybody who knew Jacob, and they’ll say he was kind, he was funny, he always thought of others before himself,” Bevan says. “And I got to see him mold into that person.”
One student at Truman who was directly impacted by Jake’s kindness was graduate student Paige Howard.
Howard says she met Jake when he was a freshman and she was a senior, and though they were in different stages of their lives, they had an understanding of each other that was almost unmatchable.
“I spent most of my hours since I met Jake with him doing everything and nothing at the same time,” Howard says. “I will never be able to put into words how much he meant to me, because no words will do him justice. He made me feel understood, appreciated, supported, respected and loved. It amazes me that someone like Jake could even exist.”
Howard says her favorite memories are not extraordinary, but instead the simple moments spent with Jake. Howard says she cherished lazy days and nights during the past year with Jake, times when they could have complete silence and be perfectly content. Howard says she cherished the nights she would get off work late and he would check on her, or the times she’d be having a bad night and he would show up with a barbecue chicken pizza.
Howard says she sees she is not the only person who Jake impacted with his caring personality, and that since their loss, it is amazing to see everyone band together.
“I know that Jake would want everyone that knew him to live our best lives for him, and that’s enough to keep moving forward,” Howard says. “I, and many others, are going to do our best to continue to spread the love that he shared with us to everyone else in our lives. Jake’s life will forever be a positive influence on everyone he touched, and continues to touch in the future.”
This appeared in the Sept. 29 issue of the Index.