A Kennewick man known for tirelessly serving as “a wonderful role model” in the Tri-Cities for decades died Wednesday. He was 99.
His wife, Pat Johnstone Jones, told the Herald her husband’s death is “a great loss to the family and the community.”
George Jones’ fingerprints are all over the Tri-Cities, as he had a hand in everything from what has become the Southridge district to helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the East Benton County Museum and what is now Trios Health.
Jones won numerous awards, including Kennewick Man of the Year in 1978 and Tri-Citian of the Year in 1997.
Kennewick Mayor Steve Young said Jones’ death has left a hole in the community.
“He loved this city more than anybody I’d ever known,” Young said.
George and his first wife, Maxine, moved to the Tri-Cities in 1947. They built a frozen-food locker rental business in downtown Kennewick and lived in the apartments upstairs. After the 1948 flood, they expanded into meat cutting.
They sold the business in 1975 and became some of the busiest volunteers in the Tri-Cities.
(Jones) loved this city more than anybody I’d ever known.
Steve Young, Kennewick mayor
George Jones was an active Mason, Shriner and Kiwanian. He served on the Port of Kennewick Commission from 1986 to 1997, was a board member of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service for 10 years and a volunteer business counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives.
He was key in raising money for construction of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, what was once called Kennewick General Hospital and the Kennewick Family Medicine clinic, as well as the county museum in Keewaydin Park.
The Southridge area was largely built up with Jones’ help. He was on the port commission when it decided to buy 106 acres, paving the way for development.
But he was involved in smaller gestures as well, such as arranging for collection of coins thrown into the Columbia Center mall's fountains, which are donated to Shriners Hospital in Spokane.
He also introduced the Pacific Northwest's first Shriners screening clinic, to help find children in need of medical care and even drove children to the Spokane hospital when they had outpatient care appointments but no way to get there.
Maxine died in 2001 and in 2003 George married his current wife, continuing together in community service and volunteerism.
Young said George Jones was a mentor to him and one of the few he knew he could always approach for advice.
Much of what we take for granted here in the Tri-Cities is due to the persistence and leadership of George Jones. He has worked extremely hard and successfully so that others might find the Tri-Cities a better place to live.
Thomas Moak, Port of Kennewick
It was George Jones who convinced Young to seek the city council seat vacated by Jim Beaver in 2009 when Beaver became a Benton County commissioner.
“I got a call from George and he says you’re going to apply or we’re going to write you in,” Young recalled.
But those who knew him said George Jones did not leave his mark on the city and region in an effort to be applauded. Rather, it was because he truly believed in the value of service to others.
“Much of what we take for granted here in the Tri-Cities is due to the persistence and leadership of George Jones,” wrote Thomas Moak, who currently serves on the Port of Kennewick board, in a letter supporting Jones for Tri-Citian of the Year. “He has worked extremely hard and successfully so that others might find the Tri-Cities a better place to live.”