Former Kennywood Park’s president Carl Hughes dies at 91

By | January 2, 2013

Carl Hughes, former president and chairman of Kennywood Park, passed away Dec. 29 of heart failure in his Pennsylvania home. He was 91.

Born in Johnstown, Pa., Carl graduated from Geneva College and began his career in 1943 as a sports writer for The Pittsburgh Press. In addition, he would help a friend working publicity for Kennywood in writing park press releases. After being drafted into the Army and stationed in the Philippines, he returned home in 1947. While keeping his job at the Press, he also worked part-time at Kennywood in publicity. In 1956, he joined Kennywood full-time.

His initial job of coordinating park sales and publicity changed three years later, when Carl’s boss, Carl Henninger, died of a heart attack, and Hughes became park manager.

“Around that time,” said Harry Henninger, who starting working at the park in 1963, “Kennywood was considered just an average amusement park with average facilities. Hughes aspired to turn it into something more. He was instrumental in getting Kennywood onto the National Register of Historic Places, making it in 1987 the first amusement park to receive that distinction. He also had a constant drive for perfection and a vision for keeping the park beautiful. It wasn’t just a roller coaster, it was a feeling that you wanted to have throughout the park for family entertainment.”

According to Mary Lou Rosemeyer, Carl’s daughter who also worked at the park for 23 years, Hughes often worked six or seven days a week. He never left the park for the day without complimenting at least one employee on a job well done, even if that meant wandering the park at night looking for a ride attendant treating a guest particularly well. He considered himself just one of Kennywood’s many team members. “He really took Kennywood from just a little — kind of dirty — park into one that was envied by park owners around the world,” said Rosemeyer. “That was his goal, to make it the finest traditional amusement park anywhere.”

Another one of Carl Hughes’ major contributions is the beloved slogan he came up with for Kennywood’s Kiddieland: The most beautiful music in the world is the sound of children laughing.

In addition to Rosemeyer, Carl is survived by his wife, Anny Hughes; another daughter, Lynn Cauley of Pittsburgh; eight grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

The family asks donations be sent to Geneva College or Smithfield United Church of Christ.