Dr. Hugh M. McArn Jr. was born on February 4, 1924 (2-4-24!) at 812 W. Church Street in Laurinburg, NC to Mattie Marie Covington McArn (Oct 19, 1894 – Aug 29, 1979) and Hugh M. McArn, Sr. (Dec. 22, 1892 – Aug. 17, 1973.) He grew up with his sister Jean Marie McArn (b. Dec. 12 1926) and brother Kenneth Hunter McArn (Oct. 30, 1927 – Jan. 14, 2013) in that house next door to his beloved grandfather Daniel Hunter (Mr. Hunter) McArn (1862 – 1947) and grandmother Carrie Munroe McArn (1868 – 1940.)
The end of World War I saw all but one of Mr. Hunter’s sons return from action. Kenneth Hunter never return at all, perishing in the influenza epidemic in November, 1918 on his army base near San Antonio, TX. Grat and Doug went on to school, but Hugh Sr. did not return to Davidson College after the war, but took up work as a bookkeeper at McDougald’s Funeral Home, reconnecting with life at home.
As the story goes Hugh Sr. was out riding one day with his good friends Eddie Beaman and Marie Covington, daughter of the prominent Laurinburg family of Covingtons. It was Marie’s older brother Quinn who had helped Laurinburg become “The City of Beautiful Trees” in designing the tree-lined area of West Boulevard.
The threesome stopped outside of a store briefly for Eddie to go in while Hugh and Marie chatted in the car. “Marie, when’re you going to marry Eddie Beaman?” Hugh asked. “I’m not going to marry Eddie,” Marie stated. “Well then how about marrying me?” Hugh asked. And Miss Marie, with her bright blue eyes smiling said, “OK.”
For an engagement present Mr. Hunter built Hugh Sr. a house next door to his own place on W. Church Street. Hugh Sr. helped with the construction, as did any brothers who happened to be home from their studies. This small house into which Hugh Jr. was born, was built without, according to Marie, a single right angle in the entire structure.
It was from this humble house that Hugh Jr. would walk to Central School, where he acquired the nickname “Quay” from the Latin suffix “-que” presumambly thanks to his academic acuity in all subjects including Latin. Later in life he would delight in using the WWII phrase: “Illegitimum non carborundum” which Quay would translate as “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”
One day, the young Quay and some of his neighborhood pals were playing a rough game that resulted in Quay being tied to a tree in the back yard with baling wire. When the lunch call sounded, all comrades deserted him in a desperate situation where his neck was slipping down into the wire, cutting off oxygen. The harder he struggled to get free, the more his neck slipped deeper into the wire’s grip. Just when things were looking truly perilous, his dad came home for lunch from his new Postmaster job at the Post Office and cut him down from his impending doom.
Quay would spend many days of his youth with his grandfather, Mr. Hunter, walking over next door, getting in the old truck to cruise out to the farmland which he used to farm himself back around the turn of the century, but later was to rent out to sharecroppers. Mr. Hunter kept track of those accounts on the wall of a certain room of his house, a system which worked fine until Mrs. Carrie decided one day to give that room a fresh coat of paint. A good bit of revenue, it was said, was lost that day.
Out by the farm near McArn Road, grandpa and grandson would drive out to the swamps around Shoe Heel Creek near the current Maxton Air Base, and take off all their clothes, walk knee deep into the mud before jumping into the ice cold black water with a shriek.
Several dogs would accompany them on their journeys, and they were Mr. Hunter’s constant companions who would climb into the back whenever Mr. Hunter fired up the old truck. As the truck’s braking power diminished, he acquired the habit of choosing benign objects – barrels, walls, sandpiles – to use as a method for bringing his vehicle to a complete stop. The dogs simultaneously developed the skill of bailing when they felt he was pulling into his final destination.
Young Quay worked in a grocery store downtown Laurinburg on Main Street, a few doors down from the spot where he would establish a medical practice some fifteen years later. His employment came under some jeopardy one afternoon when he was called upon to retrieve an item that turned out to be high on the top shelf near the ceiling of the shop.
The shelves came equipped with a ladder for just such occasions, but when Hugh climbed up the ladder, the desired item was just slightly out of reach, and rather than wasting time climbing down, he extended his reach beyond the limits of stability, and when he realized his need for extra support, he grabbed a bit too earnestly onto the top shelf, and chose to hold on, rather than falling completely off the ladder. As a result, the entire shelving unit remain attached to his hand as the wall of grocery items came crashing down after him as his brief career as a grocer did the same.
It was from the vantage point of this grocery store that Hugh had witnessed one of the spectacular and memorable moments of his grandfather’s illustrious fame in the town of Laurinburg. True to his frugal Scottish heritage, Mr. Hunter was not one for wasting a good cigar. And he had just started a good one while out at the farm on his motorcycle checking on the old house by the oaks, and a reported roof leak from a tenant.
Before starting the trek back into town, Mr. Hunter shaved the end of the ash off the cigar with his boot and put the half-smoked stogie in his coat pocket to be resumed on the other side of the trip. As he roared into Laurinburg on McGirt’s Bridge Road, he thought he smelled something burning as he slowed down to take the left turn onto North Main Street, but as he resumed speed he saw a couple of people waving at him, and he waved back.
By the time he crossed the railroad tracks into town, the entire bottom part of his coat, particularly around the right pocket area, was engulfed in flames, flapping happily in the breeze. Everyone on the sidewalk now was trying to flag down Mr. Hunter, and he, slightly surprised at the eagerness in the waves, was chortling to himself on what a welcoming spirit, what a wellspring of love this little town has to offer. It wasn’t until he saw his grandson desperately banging on the window of the grocer’s shop, that he pulled over his motorcycle and realized that his coat was not only on fire, but starting in on his trouser leg.
What a connection young Quay had with this infamous character, his grandfather. Kenny was too young still for the hunting and fishing trips out to the swamp. The dogs were all excited with the chase ahead. But the hunting had been less than successful, and so the attention turned to fishing. But nothing was biting there in the Juniper Creek that day, so Mr. Hunter thought he would shake things up a bit. He had come into a small stash of dynamite, as the story goes, and so he thought he would bring some largemouth bass up to the surface with a charge of dynamite. With that familiar twinkle in eyes, he lit a stick of dynamite, and chucked it, smoking, into the creek.
No sooner had he done that than the dogs went leaping in the water, competing to retrieve the stick for their master. Mr. Hunter and Hugh stood on the bank, wide-eyed and thunderstruck. When old Grumley reached the prize first he reversed course and with the lethal tube of powder in his mouth, was swimming for all he was worth toward Mr. Hunter. Hugh was directed toward one tree to climb; Mr. Hunter sprinted to another with Grumley close on his trail.
Mr. Hunter was not an agile man, nor was he in the custom lately of shimmying up trees, but he made it about fifteen feet up before poor Grumley met his end, wagging his tail, looking up toward the branches above. The pair drove quietly back into town, no fish, no game, and one dog down.
Hugh was a good churchgoer. His mother, Marie, made sure of that. Catechisms, Bible stories, Sunday School, sermons, Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, Beatitudes, Psalm 23 and 100… and on and on. Marie had been a school teacher, and she was accustomed to having her pupils neatly dressed and focused on the task at hand. She would look at Hugh with her soft, clear blue eyes – one of the many gifts she had given to all her children – and lead him in the way. A short walk from the house down Church Street, Laurinburg Presbyterian Church was home away from home for the family, and it was to be Hugh’s home away from home for a lifetime.
He graduated from Laurinburg High School in June, 1942 and soon after left his home town for a thirteen year adventure of higher education, military experience and medical training. Even though he had turned 18 and was of age to serve his country, now at war, Hugh matriculated at Davidson College in September, 1942 but it wasn’t long before he sat down for a chat with his father. Hugh Sr. was the chairperson of the local draft board, and there was no way his own eldest son was not going to go off to war. Hugh Jr., although committed to his studies, also wanted to join the war effort, and decided to enlist, especially since his father was standing by ready with the I-A classification for him.
So one week after his nineteenth birthday, Hugh officially enlisted as military personnel with the Marine Corps and went off to basic training at Paris Island, SC. He fell in with his company and trained hard for six months. Not long before his company’s deployment, during a training exercise with weighted packs and bayonetted rifles, Hugh planted his foot for a practice bayonet assault, and his leg slipped into a deep, narrow hole. As his weight carried him forward, he heard the sickening sound of his tibia snapping.
When his company shipped out a few weeks later, Hugh was left on his own with a broken leg, dejected, wondering how long now until he could be part of the action. It soon became clear that Hugh’s intelligence was a factor for the Marines to consider, so he was shipped off to Camp Lejeune where he enrolled in a communications training program in radar technology. Not long after it began, he received a bulletin update on his original company from overseas.
He was eager to hear the news, but his excitement turned sour in the pit of his stomach as it hit him: his entire group of buddies, all the men with whom he had bonded and sweat through basic training were dead, killed in a single enemy encounter. A couple of months later, on November 25, 1943 Hugh was promoted to Corporal (TW, Temporal Weather) in the Marine Corps, and three weeks later on December 14 completed his radar training program.
Early in 1944 Hugh joined a new company who shipped out to the South Pacific, and on July 21, 1944 joined the successful effort to recapture the island of Guam away from its Japanese occupation that began the day after the Pearl Harbor disaster of December 7, 1941. Guam was to be home for Hugh’s company for the next 13 months. There he supplemented his income by learning to cut hair – Marine style – a trade he continued to employ on his sons, long after his honorable discharge after the war ended.
Right around his 22nd birthday Hugh returned to Davidson College and began college life over again, as did many of his peers. There hadn’t been intercollegiate football at Davidson during the war years, so Hugh trained with the prospective football team during the spring of 1946, and played three seasons as a starting offensive guard. He was also tapped in the spring of 1946 to join the “Beaver Club,” for rising sophomores who demonstrate excellence in scholarship, leadership, and athletic ability.
That summer, while at home on break from Davidson, Hugh was cruising with his friend “Pemo” Stewart and they stopped in at Scotland Drugstore. Being astute young men, they immediately spied two beautiful women at the soda fountain. Pemo said, “I’ll take the short one,” as they went over to meet them. They ended up on a double date, and it wasn’t long before Hugh managed to swap dates with Pemo in order to end up with the one and only Mary Susan Crump.
Susan Crump was commuting to downtown Laurinburg from her mother’s home in Wagram, NC and was working as secretary for Jennings King’s law practice, since she recently had graduated from Meredith College. As their courtship flourished, Susan would make frequent trips to Davidson to see Hugh, often staying with Mrs. Little who helped manage the boys at Hugh’s fraternity, Kappa Sigma.
Between big Davidson weekends when he would see Susan, Hugh worked to excel in his Chemistry major, having been tapped for the exclusive Gamma Sigma Epsilon fraternity, the national honorary society in chemistry. He also went on to become President of the Davidson chapter of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the national health preprofessional honor society, awarded to standout pre-med students. Hugh participated in the International Relations Club and the “D” Club, and was elected to serve on the Court of Control, an upperclass body charged with upholding and adjudicating the standards set for the freshmen class.
After graduating from Davidson with a BS in Chemistry in 1949, Hugh headed off for Duke Medical School where he continued his courtship with Susan Crump for four more years as she carried on her work for Jennings King all the while. Hugh wrote to Susan often during these years. Their tender letters revealed the depth of their devotion to one another, and how steadfast and cherished was their relationship together.
The very day Hugh graduated from Duke Medical School, he rushed home from Durham, NC back home, missed out on the rehearsal dinner, but was ready for the wedding the next day, March 21, 1953. His marriage to Susan, after their seven year relationship, was a formal Saturday evening affair at Springhill Baptist Church in Wagram with both the Baptist minister and the Presbyterian minister from Laurinburg Presbyterian Church both presiding over the wedding.
It was a breathtakingly beautiful event, and one that would ground their marriage for the next 62 years to come. The took the Model A Ford, a gift from Hugh Sr., eventually reaching Daytona Beach, Florida to enjoy a little togetherness before beginning the new life together in Richmond, VA and an internship in general medical practice through the Medical College of Virginia.
There the newlyweds joined a community of young couples who lived together for the better part of two years.
It was during this time that Hugh offered Susan what he assumed would be a romantic first-year wedding anniversary gift of a Singer Sewing machine. Quickly surmising from his wife’s fallen face that this was not quite the right anniversary gift, Hugh made a quick study, not only of Anatomy and the wiles of internal medicine, but also the maintenance of romance in the marriage.
The biggest event of the Richmond years was the birth of the first child to Hugh and Susan. Michael Rhodes McArn was born on May 14, 1955. A month later, Hugh completed his medical board certification exams, and was looking about for a location for a medical practice and a place to start life for his brand new family. It is possible that Laurinburg was not the first place that came to mind for either Susan or Hugh, that maybe a new location might open up a new way, new opportunities.
But as it became clear that an opportunity in Laurinburg was emerging – Drs. Nesmith and Griffin were transitioning out of their medical practice – and Dr. Murdock McKeithan, an old Davidson classmate, was looking for a partner, it looked like Laurinburg would take center stage in Hugh’s life once again.
Settling into the three-bedroom house at 703 Anson Avenue, across the street from colleague Dr. David Williams, with a two-month-old baby at home, Hugh and Murdock opened up their practice in the storefront adjoining Everington’s Drug Store downtown Laurinburg on July 11, 1955. And on July 11, 2000 Hugh retired from his medical practice and hospital admitting responsibilities.
The intervening 45 years was filled with quality medical care not only to people who came to his office – first on Main Street, and then after 1963 to the new office on King Street – but also those who were sick at home and needed a doctor through an old fashioned house call.
He saw people who needed medical care at the County Health Department. He delivered babies until his medical liability insurance would no longer cover it. He treated college students as a staff physician at St. Andrews Presbyterian College. He saw many of the poorest people of the county, many of whom did not understand what was wrong with them, or how to accurately describe their symptoms, but Hugh knew how to listen, and had the patience to reach an understanding, and most of all, cared about the healing of all kinds of people he encountered.
Hugh McArn was a tennis player. He loved the game and he led the way for it to become a family tradition. And like most things he loved, he pursued it with strength and patience and love and humility. When the family moved to the new house at 501 Wilkinson Drive, he decided to create a tennis court in the backyard of his house. He brought in sandy clay, creosote telephone poles, fencing wire, and built a regulation tennis court in the presence of a disbelieving neighborhood.
And then came the years and years of maintenance. Wetting and rolling the clay, nailing the lines back down as the frost heaved them heavenward, raking up the pine straw. But that is the part he truly loved, maybe even as much as a good strong cross court backhand.
Hugh McArn was a yard man. He did not have a whole lot of free time, but what he had, he spent the vast majority of it on keeping his yards looking good. There was the yard at home, and there was the yard at his office on King Street. Both required weeding of the pine straw beds, edging the thick centipede grass against the street curb, watering plants, and of course, cutting grass. This work of course involved the use of small engines, whose health and maintenance the doctor took very seriously. He enrolled in a course at Sandhills Community College on small engine repair, and the lawn mowers, edgers, trimmers, wheel barrows, weed whackers and other implements were always in good repair, and usually extraordinarily old.
He was also a fix-it man. Glue was his specialty. He had a special part of his workshop dedicated to adhesives: apoxies, cements, and fiberglass compounds. He was the first person around to use super glue to heal cuts. Every other plate in the kitchen cupboard had a thick vein of old glue. Mugs, bowls, napkin rings, ceramic pots, old shoes, nothing broken escaped Hugh’s glue workshop.
Hugh McArn was a sailor. One of his best friends in life was Al Wells, pastor of Laurinburg Presbyterian Church for much of the late 1950 – 60s. He not only introduced Hugh to Sunset Beach, but made it possible for his family to vacation there in his house for two decades before Hugh and Susan built their own place. And he injected into Hugh, the love of sailing. Hugh would go with Al on sailing adventures on Al’s 24-foot cabin vessel, but some of Hugh’s happiest hours were spent sailing his very own humble Aqua Cat catamaran.
There was the time Hugh sailed out Tubbs Inlet into the surf just as the tide shifted to go out and the sun was going down. After some panic, and search parties commissioned, Hugh re-emerged exhausted but smiling, the bottoms of his feet sliced by encounters with oyster shells, struggling and tacking his way to bring his prized boat back to safe harbor. “But good,” he would always say, in the face of adversity. But good.
Again, it was the challenge (and thrill?) of maintenance that most attracted Hugh to sailing. How to build a trailer for a humble ancient catamaran? Well, some pvc pipe and a couple of old airplane tires should do the trick. How to get this contraption from the beach house down five or six feet to the bay shoreline? Well block and tackle and a couple of board runners should take care of that.
Hugh McArn was a Rotarian, and he loved getting together for Tuesday lunch meetings. He would go to the barbershop every couple of weeks to cut whatever hair was left on the head that began to go bald by the time he was 30 years old. He made multiple attempts to learn to play the ukulele. He rode a bicycle the 100 miles from Laurinburg to Sunset Beach on two or three occasions, once having to outrun a pack of wild dogs who swooped out from under a country house in full attack mode. He said he whipped out his secret weapon on them – a spray container of an ammonia solution – only to have it blow back in his face upon release.
He was elected to serve on the Scotland County School Board during the difficult years of the mid-1960s. He was one of the board voices who led the school district forward into embracing integrating the high school, creating a new tri-racial Scotland High School. Hugh McArn was a man of God. He would not eat a meal without having someone pray a blessing over it. He was ordained a ruling elder in the Laurinburg Presbyterian Church and helped guide that church community his whole life long. He taught Sunday School most of his adult life, and led his peers into questions of meaning which were so important to him. He went on two mission trips to Mexico to help build a church in a small border town.
In his later years, even when he had forgotten what day it was, or sometimes needed help remembering his children’s names, he would know two things: 1) if you told him to lay down, he would correct you and tell you he was going to lie down, and 2) when he said goodbye to you he would say, “I’ll see you in heaven.”
He died peacefully in his sleep around sunrise on August 4, 2015. The last thing to touch his lips the night before was a little bit of ice cream. He said before going to bed – somewhat incoherently, or was it? – “I’m going upstairs now.”
He is survived by his devoted wife, Ms. Susan Crump McArn (b. October 5, 1924), and four children: Michael Rhodes McArn (b. May 14, 1955), and his wife, Delilah Smith McArn, Rev. Jeffrey Hugh McArn (b. July 26, 1957), and his wife Dr. Georgia Alexandra Frank, Dr. Susan Hope McArn Weeks (b. March 28, 1959), and her husband Mr. John Randle Weeks, and Ms. Margaret Hunter “Meg” McArn Clunan (b. November 24, 1961), and her husband Mr. Kenneth Francis Clunan. He is also survived by his six grandchildren: Madlyn Francesca McArn (b. September 23, 1993), Halley Claire McArn (b. January 30, 1997), Theo Alexander McArn (b. April 3, 2002), Marie Covington Clunan (b. March 24, 1995), Thomas Hunter Clunan (b. July 28, 1997), and John Munroe Weeks (b. October 12, 1995.)
He will be remembered and celebrated in a graveside funeral service at Hillside Cemetery in Laurinburg on Saturday, August 8 at 10 am.