Darin M. Hughes worked as a cook, then moved into home contracting, starting his own business remodeling homes 20 years ago.
That firm, DMH Construction, became Hughesco Inc., a successful and high-profile home contracting corporation specializing in energy efficiency, a notable achievement for a man who never graduated from high school.
Mr. Hughes, 48, died Wednesday in his Grand Island home.
Despite the fact Mr. Hughes dropped out of school in the eighth grade, he was an intelligent man who had a gift for listening to people, said his brother, R. Burke Hughes.
"The biggest thing that made Darin so successful was his personality," he said. "He liked working outdoors, working with his hands. He liked the construction trades."
Hughesco was the first "Energy Star" contractor in the country, Burke Hughes said. Darin Hughes eventually sold his company to GreenHomes America, a nationwide firm specializing in home energy conservation work. He became a vice president at GreenHomes America, and he gave lectures around the country on energy saving applications for the home. In 2007 he left GreenHomes America and took over Hughesco, again operating it as an independent firm.
The company is well-known locally for its billboards and memorable television commercials, and Mr. Hughes gave home energy tips on Channel 7.
He received numerous awards from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Mr. Hughes had been a foster parent and was known for his generosity to charitable causes, particularly those involving children.
He received the Joseph Wachowiak Outstanding Citizen Award in 2002 for risking his own safety to aid an injured motorist. The motorist had been thrown from her vehicle in an accident on the Youngmann Highway in the Town of Tonawanda.
In addition to his brother, Mr. Hughes is survived by his son, Zachary M.; and his sister, Wendy.
Services will be private.