Unsung Hero: Helen Jones helps and loves people
Helen Jones isn’t a person who inspires odes and accolades. Instead she inspires her friends, her family and her students.
“Helen Jones is indefatigable,” said George Keele, an attorney in Minden. “She persists in helping and loving people.”
Jones is a wife and a mother, a music teacher and a choir director. Jones gardens almost two acres of land and an orchard of 52 fruit trees. She bakes bread – and gives it away. She raised four fine children and is a grandparent to 14.
“Helen must spend 30 hours a week with her music,” said friend and accompanist Susan Estes. “That’s impressive for a retired music teacher.”
“She is totally devoted to her music,” said LaRee Campbell. “Despite medical problems she just keeps going and going. Her agenda is more full than anyone I know.”
Jones directs the choir for the Second Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She teaches violin, viola, cello and bass, as well as piano and voice to the children of Carson Valley. She plays cello in the Carson Valley Sinfonia and the Carson City Chamber Orchestra. And that’s just the start with her involvement with music.
“When we first moved to Nevada I didn’t have my teaching credentials for public schools,” said Jones. “I still had one year of college to go. So I taught at Stewart Indian School, attended UNR during the summer and when I received my degree I taught with the Washoe County School District.”
n What retirement? Jones retired almost 12 years ago and moved to the Carson Valley. She immediately became involved with music programs in the Valley.
“I can’t remember how long I’ve been a choir director,” said Jones. “Maybe 25 or 30 years, counting Carson City and Reno before coming here.”
Jones is also as associate teacher for the Carson Valley Violin School. John O’Neill, the director of the school said that when he heard about Jones he “adopted her as our cello instructor.”
“She does a very nice job with the children,” said O’Neill. “And she is the first in line to help with presentations and at the school.”
“She is so sweet and supportive, and encouraging to her students,” said Marla Whitaker.
Whitaker first met Jones when her daughter wanted to learn to play a string instrument. “We came from southern California where you can do absolutely anything, or that’s what we thought. But my daughter never had the chance to learn how to play a string instrument. Because of Helen, music has become a tremendous source of enjoyment for Sarah.”
According to Jones, one of the reasons that music and teaching music is so important to her is that music is one of the building blocks of a kind society.
“The layer of culture is all too thin in our society,” said Jones. “When music is in your life, your whole attitude is different. Music will enrich lives and that helps the community. And by becoming involved with music you are helping your own enrichment as well.”
Jones also uses music to further the ideals of brother- and sisterhood.
“We have been invited to sing with other churches,” said Jones. “As we sing together we get to understand each other better. Music binds us together to form friendships.”
As busy as Jones is with her music, she still finds the time to garden at her Country Road home.
“Have you seen her garden?” asked Harlow Norvell, Jones’ oldest son. “It must be two acres if not larger, and she and George do it all themselves. She loves to grow things and she says that part of the enjoyment is giving the fresh vegetable to others.”
n Sharing the bounty. “When she bought the property she wanted someplace large enough to have a fruit orchard and a garden so that she could feed hungry people,” said Campbell. “During the summer she is in that garden, and as the fruits and vegetables ripen she cans and freezes what she doesn’t give away. And she bakes the most delicious breads. She doesn’t use a bread maker or a mix or anything like that. She does it the old-fashioned way and she gives most of that way, too.”
“Helen checks in on people without them realizing that is what she is doing,” said Estes. “She bakes them bread, or takes fresh vegetables to them. She is that type of person.”
When you understand Jones’ motivation, it’s easy to understand why she shares her bounty.
“One of my goals is to help people eat right. A healthy body lets you enjoy life more,” said Jones. “I give food to friends, or to people who need it. I give food to the Food Closet. And I also give classes on gardening. Everyone should learn to raise some of their own food. Who knows, it may be a necessity someday.”
Jones’ love of gardening enabled her to meet her husband, George.
“I was planting the orchard by myself and George would drive by on his way to visit his son,” said Jones. “He’d see me out there digging the holes, and after we met at church he told me he would like to come help.”
George and Helen have been married for nine years. Her family immediately doubled in size.
“I have four children and George has four children,” said Jones. “Between us we have 14 grandchildren.”
“When Helen and George got married his family became hers,” said Estes. “She fusses over them and is an active part of their lives.”
n Family values. Family and the security of her children have always been issues for Jones. She lost her first husband in 1961 and all of a sudden she was a single parent with four children.
“I was the sole support for my four children since they were tiny,” said Jones. “I taught music during the day and then worked the swing shift at Harrah’s. I was allowed to lump all my breaks together so I could rush home and eat dinner with the family and then go back to work.”
During the summers Jones would attend school instead of teaching school. All year long she averaged 4 to 5 hours of sleep at night.
“I kept up this schedule for 15 years,” said Jones. “And looking back I think my children appreciate how we worked together to keep the family together.”
“I didn’t realize the toll it took on my mother until I grew up,” said Norvell. “As children, we enjoyed our lives and we never felt deprived. I guess we never realized that most mothers didn’t work two jobs, teach school and go to school all at the same time.”
According to Norvell, they were a close family. “My mother kept it all to herself, all the hardships and the problems. We helped each other growing up, but my mother was the helm of that. She is one of the best parents. Whatever we did wrong, she would tell just us that it would be OK and help us through it. From the smallest mistakes to the really big ones, she would always stand by us. She is a jewel. She never made us feel that there was a problem.”
Jones seems able to pass on this gift to everyone she contacts.
“Despite being in constant pain with health problems, she is optimistic and cheery,” said Keele. “Everyone dearly loves her.”
“Helen is the type that rises above obstacles in her way,” said Estes. “And she has a great sense of humor, especially about her own frailties, of which I don’t see many.”
“Helen runs the rest of us absolutely ragged,” said Whitaker. “She is kind-hearted and hard working.”
“She is unbelievable,” said Campbell. “She is always there for friends and family. She works three times harder than I ever do.”
To her students, Jones is a hero. To the people who receive the benefit of her generosity, she is a hero. And to family and friends, Jones is a hero.
“We should recognize people like Helen who has devoted her life to her family, her church and her cause – music,” said Estes. “She is remarkable with all that she accomplishes. And she is the kindest person I know.”
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