Business & Real Estate

No signs of slowing down : Los Altos realtor celebrates 89th birthday, plans to keep working

Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier 
Harold Hughes began his career in real estate at age 69. Hughes celebrated his 89th birthday last week.

Coldwell Banker realtor Harold Hughes isn’t letting age slow him down anytime soon.

Hughes, who embarked on a third career as a realtor nearly 21 years ago, celebrated his 89th birthday last week with a large contingent of colleagues and friends – as well as a sizable birthday cake – at the Coldwell Banker offices at 161 S. San Antonio Road. The 36-year Los Altos resident, who works part time, told the Town Crier that he has no plans to call it a career anytime soon.

“I have to do something, you know,” Hughes said with a chuckle. “When I started in real estate, I was determined to work in (the industry) for 20 years. Maybe now I’ll make it 25.”

And work is certainly nothing new to Hughes, who still lives in the same Los Altos house he and his wife, Joy, purchased in 1977.

The son of a Kentucky tobacco farmer, Hughes joined the Navy at the age of 18, serving in World War II and the Korean War before retiring in 1963 after a 20-year military career. He served an additional 10 years as a reservist, then worked for VWR International LLC in Brisbane, a global laboratory supply company, where he ascended from salesman to the company’s management ranks before retiring once again in 1989 at age 65.

Despite a second retirement, Hughes said he still had the bug to continue working and attempted to form a startup to compete with VWR. However, the venture proved to be short-lived and he found himself pursuing a third career in real estate.

“I knew I still wanted to do something,” said Hughes, who began taking courses in real estate in the early 1990s. “At the time, things were booming and I just needed something to do.”

Meanwhile, Hughes’ colleagues said he’s a continuing source of laughs, inspiration and entertaining stories of years gone by to all who know him.

Fellow Coldwell Banker realtor and Los Altos resident Kathryn Tomaino said Hughes stands out because of his loyalty and work ethic, among other qualities.

“My dad was a World War II vet also, and Harold is kind of the last of the breed,” said Tomaino, in reference to the “Greatest Generation.”

“He’s very loyal, as you can see – he’s been here 20 years,” she continued. “He’s always out there and very involved. I think it’s what keeps him young.”

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