John Jones was a giant of a man

Published 3:37 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2009

He was a giant of a man both in his home and in his community. John E. Jones passed away this past Friday at the age of 77. The heartbreak of his passing is only surpassed by the joy of having known him.

Mr. Jones was a selfless giver of his time and resources, working behind the scenes of so many charitable organizations within his beloved community, such as the Shelby County Fair and the countless educational institutions it benefited because of his good works, the Skillet Bird toy fund, the Columbiana United Methodist Church, the Columbiana Kiwanis Club, the Shelby County and State of Alabama Cattlemen’s Associations, to name a few.

The list of his contributions could go on and on. He was admired in our community not just for what he accomplished for these many organizations, but for the humble manner in which he went about getting those things done.

Personally, I loved and respected Mr. Jones for all of these reasons, but one reason trumped them all.

Mr. Jones was the first friend I made in Shelby County some nine years ago when my family and I moved here to work at this newspaper. It was literally my first day on the job, and I was standing in an office that did not yet feel familiar when Mr. Jones walked through the door.

With an unassuming air and the warmest of smiles, Mr. Jones walked up to me, stuck out his hand and said, “I’m John Jones and we’re glad you are here.”

I remember that first meeting with Mr. Jones as if it were yesterday.

Our conversation continued with Mr. Jones walking me through the expectations the community had for its newspaper and the leadership it must be able to count on from the publisher. I’ve never since seen my job here at the newspaper in the same manner.

Mr. Jones and I shared hundreds of conversations since that first meeting.

Some of our conversations were about college football, but most related to what Mr. Jones thought we, as a newspaper, should do to support one of the many organizations he worked to help.

Each time I worked hard to find a way to say yes to Mr. Jones’ suggestion because I knew whatever he thought was best, likely was.

He inspired those of us at the newspaper, myself first among us, to be better than we would have otherwise been without his example and encouragement. No doubt there are countless other people and organizations throughout our community and beyond that who knew and loved Mr. Jones, and who could share similar testimony to the greatness of this man.

The joy Mr. Jones found in his loving relationship with his wife, Jane, and his entire family served as an inspiration to so many of us.

He set the example of what a father, brother, grandfather, husband, civic leader, and community member should be.

One is most aptly loved and admired not for what he or she takes from a community or relationship but rather for what he or she contributes to it.

It is by this benchmark, perhaps more so than any other, that Mr. Jones stood the tallest. He will be sorely missed, but fortunately the imprint he has made on our community will never be erased.