James Gomer Jones, 90, Lee’s Summit, MO
A man known for his whistling talents and always knowing the fastest shortcut to get around town, took a 90 year scenic route to the afterlife on September 27, 2018 where he is now surely whistling and enjoying music in the heavens with those who have gone before.
How does one sum up a life of one with many hats? Son, brother, musician, soldier, photographer, husband, dad, uncle, laundry man, steel union member, scout leader, Mic-o-say Medicine Man, democrat, church deacon, friend, jokester, Special Olympics Coach, camp cook, good citizen, movie star, community volunteer, Santa Claus, grandfather, great grandfather…
His life started out simple being born in Lamoni, Iowa at the home of his grandparents, Gomer and Adelaide (Pascoe) Wells on September 18, 1928 and living his first few months in Liberty Hall (during its dairy farms days), now a historic site in Lamoni. His parents, Fields and Lena (Wells) Jones later moved to the small Iowa town of Orson, where Jim attended a one-room schoolhouse, enjoyed farm life and lived close to his cousins and other grandparents; Jerome and Mollie (Stockwell Jones) Toombs. We can all be thankful his mother was able to get him safely down from his grandparent’s windmill, which he climbed up as a toddler!
When Jim was eight the family moved to Independence, Missouri and he continued to grow up at 204 South Fuller Street. He attended New Columbian Grade School where he learned that playing marbles was for keeps and he would joke throughout his life about losing his marbles. While attending William Chrisman High School (46’) he was in ROTC and picked up the coronet. His parents were musically gifted and Jim inherited that love of music eventually playing in a swing band for Teen Town. His younger sister, Marilyn (Jones) Ivans also shared that family gift. Music was something that gave him joy throughout his life and he enjoyed messing around with multiple instruments and listening to all kinds of music.
At 17, Jim’s friends where signing up for the military and he also wanted to serve so he asked his parents to sign off for him to join the
Army Air Corps which they did. In June of 1946, his training took place at Lowry Field in Denver, Colorado. Then he was given orders to go to Japan where most of his service was spent with the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron and ended with the 35th Fighter Group in May of 1949. He trained as a photo lab tech, photographer, and camera technician. He was proudest of the photo mapping work they did of the Korean Peninsula, which was extensively used during the Korean War. Upon his honorable discharge from what was now the Air Force, he had reached the rank of sergeant. His military experience kicked off his love of photography, filmmaking and the world as he did photo recon work in Japan, the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and the Philippines. As a result, of his service as a World War II Veteran he went on a wonderful honor flight to Washington DC in 2015 with his eldest son.
Shortly after he returned from Japan his friend, Tom Dempsey set him up on a blind date with Mona Van Tuyl. She was charmed by his ability to talk to anyone, good sportsmanship, fun nature with children as well as his good looks. Jim followed Mona to Graceland College for a year where he explained that he majored in “Mona” and earned his M.R.S. degree. While there, he also built many friendships and was part of the F.O.X. Social Club. Mona and Jim announced their engagement and Jim carved their names in the North Door of the Administration building. They were married August 30, 1950 and the police took the entire wedding party into custody for following their car after the ceremony!
Jim and Mona moved to Independence, MO. Their first child, Jim, was born in 1951 second, Jeff, in 1953. With their expanding family, they bought their home and moved to Lees Summit, MO in 1954. Then came Mike, Paul, Danny and Diana.
Career wise, he started work with TWA as a cargo and baggage handler until his father convinced him to work at the Independence Laundry & Cleaning Company with him and became a member of the Teamsters Union. He later worked for Clark Manufacturing Company in Atherton and then Allis Chalmers as a shipping packing clerk located in the caves on 291 hwy. He was a member of the Steelworkers Union. During the farm crisis in the 80’s he took on some odd jobs while laid off, including being an extra wielding a torch while leading an angry mob in the 1983 movie “Eyes of Fire” which was partially filmed at Missouri Town 1855. He retired from Deutz-Allis in 1988.
A spiritual man, Jim believed in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the power of prayer and in being in service to others. Jim was an ordained deacon of the Community of Christ Church (former RLDS) where he was a lifelong member. He was a role model for being in service to others, which he instilled in his children. In 1959, he and Mona were a united team and got involved with Boy Scouts (packs/troops 366 and 388) where they served for over 50 years. Both earned the BSA’s Silver Beaver Award, the Community of Christ’s International Youth Service Award and were named the Missouri Special Olympics Family of the Year in 2003. Having a son with Down’s syndrome got them involved in creating a Cub Scout pack for intellectually disabled young people. Jim and Mona received training for developing scouting for the handicapped at Philmont Scout Ranch. Jim completed and later taught Wood Badge training as well. In the Scouting Mic-o-Say program, he was known as Medicine Man Stout Timber. He was famous for his great biscuits & gravy and sloppy joes helping in the kitchen at many camps. He was certified to coach seven sports for Special Olympics and often drove participants to district, state and once to national competitions.
The family spent many vacations tent camping, going to national parks and historic points of interest to help the boys earn scout merit badges and to provide educational experiences. Perhaps the biggest early camping learning experience happened when a bear tore into their tent one night while they were sleeping. No one was hurt and their yelling scared the bear away!
Children will remember his special talent of pushing out his upper false teeth and growling to entertain them. He also liked to play the missing thumb game and hand slap game. Some recall him playing Tip Toe through the Tulips on his ukulele and his vast collection of music often using it to DJ for camp dances. Long time Lee’s Summit residents may remember his Best All Around prize-winning beard during the city’s 1965 Centennial.
Proud of all his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who described him variously as dedicated, reminiscent, appreciative, committed, care giver, Christ-like, humorous, thoughtful, gregarious, fair-minded, alert a bit skeptical (as he was from the Show Me State after all), thoughtful, likeable, tough, careful, knowledgeable, healthy, brave, clean, reverent, helpful, self-deprecating humor, movie lover, creative, role model, occasionally cantankerous, family centered, laugh magnet, service minded, playful, loving, inviting, laughter, eye twinkling, teacher, compassionate, always wondering if he did enough, steadfast, beautiful, and loved.
When asked what advice he would like to leave with you he said, “Greet people with a smile. Have an argument then get over it. Stay on the happy side of life. And, set a good example.” We are thankful for the example Jim set for us all. The final word he wanted to leave with everyone he said with a grin and a sparkle in his eye, “Bye!”
Because Jim was an old guy in body but not in spirit he has been preceded in death by many family members and friends. His living family legacy includes his wife Mona, sons Jim (Patricia), Jeff, Mike (Twyla), Paul (Jody), Danny, his favorite daughter Diana, grandchildren Mark (Erika), Becky (Aaron Scott), and great grandchildren Parker and Marley Scott. He also leaves behind his sister and brother-in-law Marilyn and Don Ivans and their sons, Patrick, Joshua (Michelle) and their grandchildren.
Services at the Lee’s Summit Community of Christ Church located at 1101 NE Independence Ave on Saturday October 6. Visitation begins at 9am, brief Mic-O-Say service at 10:00am, funeral service at 10:15am and graveside military honors to follow at Floral Hills East Memorial Gardens cemetery. Website: dignitymemorial.com, search James Gomer Jones
Donations may be given to the Community of Christ Church, Camp Moja, Special Olympics, Preferred Family Healthcare Community Services Division (Danny’s group home), and Southeast Sheltered Workshop.
The family wishes to thank the KC St Luke’s Home Care and Hospice House and the many people that supported him on his journey.