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The Uncertain Start Of A Remarkable Life

February 18, 2001|MATTHEW HELLER

While the end of Mark Hughes' life story is as unambiguous as the coroner's toxicology report, its beginning is a far more tangled tale.

In a sworn declaration provided to The Times, current Herbalife International Chairman Jack Reynolds insists, "I was and I am Mark's legal and biological father." The declaration states that he and Jo Ann were married in Las Vegas in January 1955 and were divorced in March 1956. "Our son Mark" was born in Lynwood on Jan. 1, 1956.

Their divorce decree states that "care, custody and control of Mark Stuard Reynolds" was awarded to Jo Ann, with Jack Reynolds getting the right to "reasonable visitation"--though Hughes said he never met his "real dad" until he was almost 30.

According to his birth certificate, however, Mark Hughes was born Mark Stuard Hartman, the first child of Jo Ann Hughes, age 19, and Stuard Marr Hartman, an assistant warehouse manager, age 23.

As Hartman relates it, he and Jo Ann had dated since high school in Downey. After he returned from military service in Korea, they split up in 1954 because he was not ready to settle down. So she married Reynolds and moved to Washington state. At that point the chronology of her life becomes unclear. She conceived Mark three months after marrying Reynolds, but Hartman claims she was back with him by then.

Regardless which man fathered the child--still a point of contention 45 years later--Hartman and Jo Ann obtained a marriage license in April 1956 and were married the following September. Herbalife Executive Vice President Conrad Lee Klein claims that Jo Ann, Reynolds and Hartman came to a mutual agreement about the time Mark was born, though Klein later said the agreement was between Jo Ann and Reynolds only. "She would put Stuard's name on the birth certificate," he explains. "She would marry Stuard, live happily ever after and he would be the father figure."

Hartman dismisses that as ludicrous: "I guarantee you I would not have married [Jo Ann] if there was any real possibility of her [having gotten] pregnant by somebody else."

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