Years ago — more than a half-century — George Jones’ daughter was hurt in an accident at home.
The family lived in Kennewick, which didn’t have its own hospital at the time. So the worried father had to take the girl across the river to Pasco for medical treatment.
He decided something needed to change.
“We just had to have (a hospital in Kennewick),” he told the Herald a few years ago.
So Jones threw himself into a community fundraising campaign, and — thanks in part to his efforts — a Kennewick hospital opened its doors in 1952.
Jones remained a champion of what’s now the Trios Health public hospital system for the rest of his life.
On Thursday, the Trios Foundation is honoring the late philanthropist, volunteer and tireless community booster on what would have been his 100th birthday.
A bronze bust of Jones will be unveiled at the Trios Care Center at Southridge in a 5:30 p.m. ceremony.
“George felt very strongly about the hospital. I think that’s why the foundation wanted to do something,” said Jones’ widow, Pat Johnstone Jones.
Jones died last year at age 99.
He left a significant mark on the Tri-Cities, from helping shape the Southridge area as a Port of Kennewick commissioner to raising money for the East Benton County Museum, Tri-Cities Cancer Center, Trios Health and many other groups and causes.
He was an active Mason, Shriner and Kiwanian, and won numerous awards and honors for his good works, including Kennewick Man of the Year in 1978 and Tri-Citian of the Year in 1997.
He also won numerous friends with his charm, warmth and care.
“He was one of the best people I’ve ever known,” said Ray Schulz, a fellow Shriner. “He’s done more for the community than anyone I’ve ever known.”
Jones was a famously hard-to-resist fundraiser. He had a light touch, yet someone always got people to dig deeper and give more.
One longtime friend took to handing over his wallet every time he saw Jones approach, telling him to simply take what he needed.
The optimism — I think that’s part of what his legacy is.
Tom Moak, former Kennewick mayor and current port commissioner
Friends said it wasn’t smooth talking, but Jones’ own generosity and commitment that inspired people to give. He also backed up his words with actions.
Several years ago, for example, he and his wife were seated with the director of Trios’ Adult Day Services at a dinner in Kennewick. The director said the program needed more bathrooms for efficiency, and the next day Jones got to work lining up supplies and labor.
He also arranged to have the coins tossed into the fountains at the Columbia Center mall donated to the Shriners children’s hospital in Spokane. He and Schulz personally collected and cleaned the coins.
“The most we ever got was 105 pounds of coins in one month,” said Schulz, who continues the coin duties.
Tom Moak, a former Kennewick mayor and current port commissioner, said Jones was a mentor who led by example and was forward-thinking.
“George didn’t see things as, I’m only the hospital, I’m only this, I’m only that. He saw the importance of so many different things. (His thinking) was very broad and futuristic, and not (about) where we’ve been but where we’re going,” Moak said. “The optimism — I think that’s part of what his legacy is.”
Jones had a spirit “that needs to be imbued and infused in the rest of us — to keep making this community as good as it can be,” Moak added.
Johnstone Jones said her husband loved Trios and the community, and it’s meaningful to see him honored and remembered.
“I’m so proud of him,” she said.
The bronze bust was created by local sculptor Tom McClelland, with help from T. Hunter Bronze foundry in Walla Walla.
The Trios Foundation raised money for the bust project. No hospital funds were used.
Trios Care Center at Southridge is at 3730 Plaza Way, Kennewick.