David Alan Jones. July 14, 1937 – September 4, 2022
“We chose you.” These are the words Dave remembered all his life. He was adopted by his parents, Alan and Carol Jones, at 10 days old, never knowing a time when he didn’t know he was wanted and was chosen. He loved to sing, “I was a ten dollar baby, baby – look at me now!”
His parents lived in Demorset, Georgia, as missionaries of the Congregational Church, and later the United Church of Christ (UCC). In 1940, they moved to Putney, VT, and his mental life began at Hickory Ridge School. He loved reading and remained fascinated with words all his life. In Willington, CT, his mother saved him from a bullying second grade teacher by teaching him to read a manuscript.
In 1947, the family moved to the small town of Merom, Indiana, where Alan became director of the UCC Camp and Convention Center, and Dave became the glue between center and town. Basketball referee, and his team, the Rockets, reached the state quarterfinals. Watch the movie “Hoosiers” to understand!
His world changed at Oberlin College. Merom would not have offered English lessons to seniors, but first-year Bill Sellers taught him how to write and exposed him to authors he would love. Dave joked that before that class he thought “Keats was dog food!”
The following summer, Alan sent Dave to a labor camp in France where other worlds had opened, and he began reading The New York Times. He majored in government and thought about teaching until a Rockefeller Fellowship sent him to Union Theological Seminary in New York for service testing.
Nancy Brooks, of Atlanta and Duke, arrived at Union in the fall of 1961, his last year, and they shared an evening class taught by that brilliant Quaker, Douglas Steer. One night, Steere spoke of D. H. Lawrence, and since they had both recently read one of his novels, the conversation continued at the snack bar during the break until Dave suddenly asked, “How are you at the race?” Nancy replied: I carried my sit-in banner. “It’s fine,” Dave said. “Back to Lawrence.” Dave had one Southern girlfriend who was “separate but equal,” and he wanted it to be clear from the start that this was not acceptable. By Thanksgiving they were engaged and married in June after his graduation. He was ordained into the Union Carbide Corporation service and began serving a chapel in Granville, Illinois, in the fall of 1962. The parish ministry emphasized both his sense of calling and his acknowledgment that he flourished when his mind was engaged in serious debate. Margie’s birth in 1964 greatly increased his ability to love!
Dow Kirkpatrick, who had been minister to Nancy in Atlanta, was now at First Methodist Church in Evanston, Illinois, where he asked Dave to join his team as youth minister, an ecumenical adventure. At the same time, Edmund Berry encouraged Dave to obtain a master’s degree in religion from Northwestern University. After a year and a half, Dave transferred to full-time academics, and began studying for his Ph.D. in American history. Brooks was born in 1967 and Rachel in 1970 while graduate studies continued to work.
In the fall of 1971, Dave began his teaching career at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Friends, kids, cat, dog, and U-Haul drove us from Evanston to South Grace Street. This was a big step, and one that extended our family again when our best friend Julius Hansen from Granville came to live with us until his death 4 years later. Jules said he was part of three families – his family he was born into, his family he married, and his loving family.
For 27 years, Dave has taught courses on US history and religion, engaging students in the life of the mind, challenging them to read and considering new perspectives, often using sports to draw them in. His story of three baseball referees taught life lessons as well as provided an important lens through which to view history: the first said, “I call them the way I see them,” the second replied, “I call them as they are,” leading the third into the case emphatically, “They are not a thing until I call them.”
Dave published some articles, but never wrote an academic book because his time was spent on important writings of the people around him. “His books were often two pages of commentaries printed on student papers,” Nancy said. He researched and wrote a history of the First Presbyterian Church at Rocky Mount, and an oral history of the American Association of University Women in Rocky Mount, the latter being a point of particular pride because he documented and told the stories of white and black women. who worked together to improve inter-ethnic and community relations. His writing has also included lectures, presentations, prepared written reviews, and discussion notes for sessions he led or joined as a longtime active fellow of the Society for Values in Higher Education, and the Thomas Hardy Society. He wrote poems and hymns, including the North Carolina Wesleyan alma mater. He left a legacy of thoughtful, personal, and written sermons for marriage, baptism, and funeral services that he administered to family, friends, former students, and others.
The door to Dave’s Wesleyan office was always open to students, faculty, staff, and members of the community. His informal office was at Rocky Mount in China Inn, where he often had lunch with his friends and colleagues. Wesleyan football and golf were greatly enhanced by the arrival of Dave and Nancy’s “other son” Graeme Stewart in the spring of 1986. Dave has been a constant and steady presence in the community, serving on committees, teaching at Sunday School, volunteering for campaigns, free throws to collecting Funds for Wesleyan, transcend Tar River Swing Band concerts, and with Nancy for many years provided Meals on Wheels. His care for people and his amazing memory allowed him to remember certain details of a particular marching band event or athletic play with several of Nancy’s high school students and classmates even decades after the events. Everyone who knew him witnessed his lifelong devotion to the Detroit Tigers, and his later embrace of basketball at Duke University, where he was a regular attendee of both the men’s and women’s games at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Dave brought the same enthusiasm for life, people, broad interests, and love of music to the Carol Woods retirement community in Chapel Hill, where he and Nancy moved after retirement. At Carol Woods, Dave found old friends, a college music teacher, a new audience for his jokes, stories, baseball traditions, a writing group, and a choir that he and Nancy joined. He joined the local UCC Church, and was actively involved in two book groups, one in the church and one with retired pastors, until he was no longer able to. He and Nancy chaired the Carol Woods Social Committee, where they welcomed newcomers into formal and informal positions. Dave has been incredibly grateful to the community of friends he has lived among in Carol Woods for the past 12 years.
The same can be said of his gratitude and our gratitude to the surgeons and staff at UNC Hospital who have served him through multiple operations over the past 10 years, with many thanks to the Carol Woods Nursing Team during his last year-long struggle with pulmonary fibrosis. They were very thoughtful and attentive. He died early in the morning of September 4, 2022, and next to him was Nancy. Dave is survived by his wife, Nancy; daughter Margie Jones and son-in-law Ross Haddad and grandson Jordan Haddad; son of Brooks Jones and grandson of Liam Garrett-Jones and granddaughter of Ellie Jarrett-Jones; Daughter of Rachel Jones. And the dog Ernst. Among the many extended family members and those allegedly from the family, Dave is survived by grandchildren adopted by love Cameron Stewart, Justina Stewart, Charlie Tutu, Angus Tutu and Josephine Watts.
When Dave’s father passed away in 1984, Ed Perry told him it was time for a good book on adoption. My Father’s House told that story, the story of choice, the story of open arms and hearts. And no words express the importance or depth of this choice better than the opening phrase of Chapter One: “We did not bring you into the world,” said my father as I followed him through the kitchen door to the backyard, “We chose you.”
Dave memorial gifts to Hospice, AI or the Carol Woods Charitable Fund for Enrichment of Employees would be very appropriate.
A personal memorial service for Dave will take place on Saturday, November 12, 2022 at 2 p.m., followed by a reception at the Carol Woods Campus in Chapel Hill. The family encourages that attendees be vaccinated and boosted, and that residents other than Carol Woods have a negative home test on the morning of the service. A virtual event to share memories and celebrate Dave’s life is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, December 4, 2022 at 2pm, by Zoom.
Posted by Legacy Remembers on September 19, 2022.