This is a eulogy that has a bit of everything; scripture, poetry, stories, toasts. Eulogy of DR. WILLIAM S. JONES "A Great Man Has Fallen This Day" (II Samuel 3:38)
This eulogy will not begin with the usual, "We are gathered here today to remember…." You know why we have gathered; you may not know how we will remember the one and only William S. Jones. When newscaster Diane Sawyer delivered the Eulogy for Lucille Ball, she raised a long-standing theological argument in Christianity about whether or not there is laughter in heaven. Today we can be assured there is laughter in heaven just as there is laughter among us all as we recall our many favorite adventures with Bill Jones.
Today, Bill Jones has realized his long-held ambition. I have heard him say countless times that you will know you are somebody in Greensboro if you get a "Two-Al" funeral. Bill, you got it. Al Lineberry, Jr. planned it and Al Lineberry, Sr. implemented the plan. They are both going to be certain you get the very best send off. With Bill Jones, having his "Two- Al" funeral, and with certainty that there is laughter in heaven, I know for sure that we will all need to hold on tight because it is going to be a bumpy eternity.
Bill was fond of saying that every Methodist minister had at least one good sermon. He would preach that one sermon the first Sunday, then the remaining four years he would just use variations on it. Well Bill, here stands one Methodist minister and I'm not sure he has even one good sermon.
In thinking about scripture for someone like Bill Jones I eagerly turned to what to me are the most exciting verses in scriptures. Most of them are exciting adventure stories from the Old Testament. I love stories about:
Following a visit to America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote his impressions of the country and her people. He said the business of America is not business at all; it is civilization. He explained that for the good American it was not enough to be born, to live awhile, and then to die. There must be something more. That something more has built our schools, churches, colleges and hospitals.
If ever anyone personified what de Tocqueville was saying it was Bill Jones. For Bill Jones the business of life was not business at all, it was civilization. He not only worked as a volunteer in behalf of schools, churches, colleges, hospice and youth, he provided the brick to literally build most of those institutions in this part of the world. That commitment to community service along with his service in the U.S. Navy clearly positioned him as a member of what Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation."
Bill Jones was as astute a businessman as this state has ever seen. His election to the Junior Achievement Business Leaders Hall of fame attests to that fact. If you were going to run Boren Brick and keep it in the forefront of the building industry you did not do that with white gloves and tea parties. (Bill once was asked by a potential customer how much it would cost to brick his patio. Bill thought to himself $5,000 for the brick, $3000 to lay it; so he answered $8,000. The customer then asked, how much will it cost to have you lay it. Without hesitating, Bill said, "that's another $3,000! So $11,000.")
If you were going to expand a business created by Orton Boren, you had better be prepared to take on some of the most competitive business people in the nation. He took them all on; and built Boren Brick into the nation's third leading brick company.
But his business world went beyond Boren Brick. It began with Syrup Sales for Coca Cola, and in time included Broad River Brick and Kendrick Brick and Tile. But he also found time to serve on the Boards of the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority, Home Federal Savings and Loan and twice served as President of the GGO Green Coat Club. And the scripture reads, " A prince and a great man has fallen this day."
His quick wit and mischievous manner endeared him to all who worked and played with him. He had a toast for all occasions. These were not just simple toasts like "cheers" and "here's to you." His toasts had a story to tell. Perhaps his favorite is one he gave to Judith and me and it hangs proudly on our refrigerator. It goes:
"Travel light through life, take only what you need
Good friends, a loving family, simple pleasures.
Someone to love, someone to love you.
Enough to wear, enough to eat, and a little more than enough
To drink; for thirst is a terrible thing."
Yes, this is a toast - not something you typically quote in a church memorial service. But it is also a philosophy of life. It is a simple yet complete philosophy of life that honors family, friends and the importance of spreading fun and joy along life's way.
A virtual "who's who" of people in the not-for profit world consider him a valued mentor. Boy Scouts of America, Appalachian State University, N. C. State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Brick Institute of America and of course, Greensboro College. He served Greensboro College as a Trustee for 31 years; was Chairman of the Board for 13 years; and thankfully was the Chairman who brought Judith and me to the City of Greensboro 13 years ago.
Bill became Dr. Bill when Greensboro College presented him with the degree Doctor of Humanities in 1999. Our most prestigious scholarship was initiated by Clarence and Bill in 2000 and in 2005 the Jones Student Commons was dedicated in honor of Clarence and Bill.
Those many contributions to the College only confirm our original impression of these two people. On our very first evening in Greensboro, Clarence and Bill picked us up for a reception with Greensboro College Trustees. After spending time with the two of them before and after the reception, Judith and I returned to the hotel. Judith said it simply, "Clarence and Bill … they are our kind of people, this is our kind of place." Indeed they are: Clarence and Bill are our kind of people. And the scripture reads, "A prince and a great man has fallen this day."
Leonardo da Vinci, born in 1452, is best known for his painting of the Lord's Supper. He also made the original sketches of the helicopter. However, he did nothing with the helicopter sketches because he did not have a passion for flying machines. His passion was for art.
Passion is an honorable captor. When it takes hold of a person, it bestows what the Old Testament describes as a "double portion" of spirit and enthusiasm. Bill Jones had a passion for certain people and things. He had a passion for his parents and his brothers (Charlie and his wife, Janet, are present). When he was in the Navy he came home to court Clarence. As he was going out of the house his mother told him to be in by 11:00. Bill responded, "Mother, I am in the Navy, I am fighting our nation's enemies." His mother replied, yes, but tonight you are at my house, and you will be in by 11:00."
He had a passion for his children, Madeline and Orton. His life revolved around them and how he could be with them and include them in every possible way. Even singing various renditions of "You are my sunshine," watching countless showings of "The Music Man" and "Gunga Den."
He had a passion for his grandchildren, William and Clarence. From catching minnows in his T-shirt at Figure 8 to wearing a crown of seaweed on his head, he was the classical Grandfather we all want to be.
He had a passion for his daughter-in-law and son-in- law. He never tired of telling Marcia how much he loved her. And his advice to Everette when he sought permission to marry Madeline was, "You cannot afford her." After a few years Everette acknowledged, "He could not afford her!"
But, my oh my he had a passion for Clarence. That passion grew each mile the train traveled to take him from Bainbridge, Maryland, to visit with her at Stratford College. He had plenty of jokes about most any subject, but I never heard him tell a joke that made fun of Clarence. I think their relationship might best be described by two needlepoint pillows in their den. One says "Happiness is being married to your best friend." The other says, "If you ever leave me, I am going with you."
Bill Jones had a passion for that farm in Pleasant Garden. I had never seen a place with brick sidewalks, brick driveways and even brick curbs and gutters. The O - B Ranch. A place like no other. A pond for fishing; a caboose to entertain the grandchildren and their grade school classes, and a perfect place to fleece Boy Scout volunteers. How many Oyster Roasts did Clarence and Bill host for the Boy Scouts at that farm! How many millions of dollars did they raise for Boy Scouts!
The first time I went I thought I was to be a guest, a visitor. I thought I was there to enjoy the festivities and to meet new people and eat oysters, most of which were prepared by Orton. I quickly learned that a visit to that caboose would cost at least $1,000 to get out. There was no greater honor than to be inducted into "The Order of the Caboose." It cost you, but it was worth the cost. Bill had a very unique way of making service to others fun as well as fulfilling.
Clarence and Bill turn the entire farm over to Greensboro College each fall. It hosts our opening faculty - staff picnic each year, complete with Bill and Orton giving the children, and quite a few of the faculty, hayrides around that beautiful farm.
And then there was The Chapel - Bill's Little Chapel by the Pond. A beautiful little chapel constructed at the edge of the pond just a short walk from the farm house. How proud we all were to dedicate that Chapel in April 2004. It became the calm and serene "capstone" of his career on the farm.
There is a scene in the last act of Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town" in which the central character says, "Do human beings ever realize life while they live?" Bill Jones answered Emily's question with a resounding yes. He realized life … every, every minute of it. He knew that the Christian faith teaches the art of living as well as the art of dying. Bill had mastered the art of living. And Scriptures read, "A prince and a great man has fallen this day."
Oscar Wilde wrote correctly, "Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground." In our sorrow today we are conscious of the holy ground that surrounds us. Yet beneath the tears and emotions of the moment we can believe that death and love are two wings that bear us from earth to heaven. Sir Walter Scott asked the question for us, "Is death the last sleep? No, it is the last and final awakening."
Because Jesus lives, we too shall live. Not only do we live eternally with our risen Lord, we live on in the memories of devoted and grateful family and friends. It has been written, "To live in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind is not to die; it is to live forever."
Okay, Bill; it's your turn; permit me to paraphrase your toast:
"You traveled light through life, you took only what you needed;
Good friends, a loving family, simple pleasures.
Someone to love, someone to love you.
Enough to wear, enough to eat,
and many friends who will forever toast your days."
It was said of the King when he died that he was a "Prince, a great man." Today we remember with great enthusiasm and love Bill Jones, "A prince, a great man."