Thursday, May 14, 2020

Death of area icon Theola Jones is mourned

Theola Jones  
An icon in the City of Inkster, Theola McKay Jones, 91, died May 1.
Mrs. Jones was born Feb. 2, 1929 in the home of her paternal grandmother, Sophie Jackson, in Hot Springs, ALA, the daughter of Velma Vandalia Rickmon and Theodore Shaw Jackson.
The family moved to Inkster in 1938 and Mrs. Jones graduated fourth in her class from Inkster High School in 1947 and was a member of the first Inkster High School cheerleaders squad, was the editor of the 1947 yearbook and was voted as the “most popular girl” by her classmates.

She married her high school sweetheart and love of her life, Aaron Jones Jr., whom she met at Lincoln Elementary School when they were 7 years old. The couple were the parents of three children; Aaron III, Rita Denise and Dennis Keith
While Mrs. Jones was the recipient of multiple awards, honors and recognitions,, her primary focus in life was always her children and family. She enjoyed a special relationship with her son-in-law, Lloyd and daughter-in-law, Regina.
Mrs. Jones cared for her elderly mother for 20 years before her death while also caring for her husband who became ill during that time. She cared for her husband for more than 38 years until his death in 2014. Those experiences prompted her to write her book, “The Caregiver's Companion” which was published in 2000 by Proctor Publications.
Mrs, Jones first job at the age of 13 was for the Inkster School District during summer classes at Carver School. She assisted with the serving of lunch for the students and was paid .25 cents for her work. After graduating from high school, she took a job in the meat department at Allen's Super Market until the advent of Civil Service in Wayne County in 1948. She took the Civil Service test and achieved a 91.3 score and was among the first African Americans to break the color barrier at Wayne County General Hospital, also known as Eloise. Mrs. Jones worked as a hospital attendant, a licensed attendant nurse II and a ward supervisor for 25 years in the psychiatric division of the hospital.
In the late 1970s, the Wayne County Intermediate School District and the County of Wayne formed a partnership to introduce high school students to the world of work. Mrs. Jones was selected to train and supervise the students in the filing division of the billing department.
Mrs. Jones retired in 1981 after 33 years of service.
Her deep commitment to fair and equal treatment prompted her to serve in several positions for Local 25 Council 25 AFSCME where she was an active member. For many years she served as the chief grievance writer on behalf of union members that resulted in the reversal of unfair practices. In addition, she served as Building Steward, Special Conference Member, Good and Welfare Committee and Nursing Office Liaison. During her employment, a group of employees joined together to form a committee named “Just Friends.” Mrs. Jones served as the secretary and the co-coordinator until the group was disbanded due to the deaths of many members.
Following her retirement at the age of 55,  Mrs. Jones  decided to fulfill a life-long dream to attend college. She enrolled on a part-time basis in the Gerontology Program at Madonna University and earned a 30-Hour Certificate in Gerontology, an associate degree in Gerontology; a special certificate in Activity Therapy for the Elderly, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Gerontology with a minor degree in Journalism and Public Relations. She graduated with high honors in 1990, after having earned a 3.8 GPA. She was inducted into the Kappa Gamma Pi Sorority, a prestigious Catholic scholastic group. In 1989 she was presented the St. Catherine Medal by the faculty of Madonna University- the sole winner of the distinguished scholastic honor. An avid writer, she completed writing courses at Schoolcraft College and the University of Michigan Dearborn campus.
During more than seven decades, Mrs. Jones responded to requests for poems, tributes, helped write obituaries, (in some cases printing them at no cost whenever needed), resolutions, letters of recommendations, and proof-reading materials for college bound students. In 1997 the Cathedral Choir of Smith Chapel A.M.E. Church presented a play “The Womanless Wedding” written and directed by Mrs. Jones. In 2009 for the 85th Church Anniversary, she wrote and directed a skit entitled: “Appointed”. In 2010, she compiled a history of the church, entitled: “Precious Memories” printed and published by B&D Graphic Design+ Pam.
In 1995, a special request was made by Inkster Mayor Hilliard L. Hampton, Jr. to the editor of the Inkster Ledger Star to appoint Theola and the late educator, Maude Reid and Karen Williams as special writers for a new section. “Inkster Good News”.
Mrs. Jones was a volunteer tutor with the Inkster Literacy Council. She was a member of the Detroit Black Writers Guild and she participated in a poetry reading event in 1994 at Wayne State University Hilberry Theatre. She received a heart-warming reception for the reading of her poem, “Images” that depicted the life of slaves on southern plantations. The poem was published in the Detroit Black Writers Guild Anthology.
She was a devoted member of Smith Chapel A.M.E. Church which she joined at the age of 7.
She served on the Steward Board under the pastorate of five pastors and retired as Steward Emeritus after 40 years of service. She chaired the finance committee and she authored the very first Finance Committee Training Manual of Smith Chapel.
At the request of the Rev. Melvin D. Reed she coordinated the activities of the Senior Citizens Circle for 23 years. It was the first group for senior citizens in the history of the local church as well as in the Fourth Episcopal District. The organization was active visiting the sick and shut-in and hosting celebratory occasions for seniors throughout the metropolitan area.
Her pastor submitted her name to be included in the first Selected Registry of the African Methodist Episcopal published by the A.M.E. Church.
Mrs. Smith was active with a long list of groups, committees, choirs clubs and the church.
For several years she chaired the Focus Hope Food Program, the General Motors Food Program, Wayne County Food Program as well as the Federal FEMA Food Program. With the help of church volunteers food was distributed to the elderly and the low-income residents of the city. She championed the cause of those less fortunate all of her adult life.
For more than seven decades, Mrs. Jones was an integral part of many civic and community groups. In 1987, Councilman Ernest Hendricks submitted her name to represent the City of Inkster as one of the 150 First Lady of Michigan honorees at a ceremony in Lansing where she received a proclamation from. Paula Blanchard, the wife of then Gov. James Blanchard.
Among her many honors and accolades were: Key to the City of Inkster and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 presented by Mayor Byron Nolen.
Among those left behind to honor her memory are her sons, Aaron III and Dennis (Regina); her daughter, Rita (Lloyd Edsel);; grandchildren, Lloyd III, Tamara (Michael Sr.), Tiffany, Arica and Stephanie; great-grandchildren: Micah, Michael Jr., Mackenzie, Jaden, Octavia, Leasia, and Lloyd IV;  her brother,  Willie B. (Maggie); brothers-in-law, Weaver Jones (Shirley) and Robert Jones (Ceneilla); sisters-in-law, Marian Allen, Esther Brown, Sharon Austin (Ulysses); many nieces, nephews and cousins along with special family friends, Sonya, Deloris and Chris and a host of beloved friends.