PEORIA – Kenneth Wesley Jones died on October 20, 2020 after a long illness with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a form of Parkinson’s disease. He was 95 years old.
Ken was born on August 19, 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri to Harry Lee Jones, Sr. and Hazel Hixon Jones. He enjoyed spending his youth in Maplewood, Shrewsbury, and Webster Groves, suburbs southwest of downtown St. Louis. He graduated from Webster Groves High School in 1943 and then served in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II (Company K, 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Division). He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart for his service. He was a lifelong member of the Disabled American Veterans.
After WWII, Ken returned home and graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BSBA degree in business administration. He met his wife, Barbara Lee Rea, there. She was from Litchfield, Illinois. They married on July 1, 1951. Over the years, they made their home together in Rock Hill, MO; Decatur, IL; Peoria, IL; Marinette, WI; and back to Peoria, IL. They had 3 children: Shirley Margaret (Margy); Janet Elizabeth (Jan); and Steven Kent (Steve). In 2002, they retired to the beautiful campus of Lutheran Hillside Village.
Over the course of his professional career, Ken served as the Controller of the Marvel-Schebler Products Division of the Borg-Warner Corporation in Decatur, IL. He then joined Caterpillar, Inc., where he retired in 1984.
Ken volunteered for many agencies within the Peoria community over the years. He served as a mentor for the Peoria chapter of SCORE. He also worked with Wildlife Prairie Park, Forest Park Nature Center, and the Peoria Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. He was an Amateur Radio Operator with the call sign of WD9IBJ. He was a member of First Federated Church of Peoria.
Ken was a shining example of the “Greatest Generation.” He was very much shaped by the Great Depression and by his time in the infantry during World War II. He lived his life with joy and gratitude. He was kind to all he met – nearly everyone has a delightful “Ken story.” He adored music, especially classical and jazz. And he loved jokes of all kinds, and he remembered them all! He balanced work and family time with personal interests like photography and writing. Like so many veterans of war, Ken never spoke of it until late in his life, where he devoted a great deal of time & research to retracing his steps in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. He was thrilled that his research intersected with that of 2 French historians, Andre Wagner and Daniel Walzer, and they exchanged many stories, pictures, and email notes over the last decade or so. These interactions were deeply meaningful to Ken.
Ken is survived by his beloved wife, Barbara Rea Jones. This summer they celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary. He is also survived by his 3 children and their spouses: Margy & Gerry Galewski of New Berlin, WI; Jan & Dick Ford of Fruita, CO; and Steve & Kris Jones of Colorado Springs, CO. He leaves behind 3 grandchildren and 2 great-children: grandson Michael Zwirgzdas and his wife, Jill Jensen, and their 2 daughters, Alice & Addisen; granddaughter Kristen Young and her husband, Ryan Young; and granddaughter Emily Jones. He is also survived by his nephews & niece.
Ken was preceded in death by his parents, as well as his brother, Major General Harry Lee Jones, Jr., and his sister, Jacqueline (Jones) Ayres.
The family deeply thanks the nurses, caregivers, and hospice staff at Lutheran Hillside Village, and specifically the REACH facility, for their wonderful care of Ken for the past year. We are forever grateful for the love and support that they showed to both Ken and Barb during this time.
Cremation rites have been accorded. There will be no funeral services at this time due to the current health considerations around the COVID-19 pandemic. The family plans a memorial service to celebrate Ken’s life in the future, when it is safe to do so. And as Ken requested, it will be light and airy in honor of his joyful life!
Memorial offerings, in honor of Ken Jones, may be made to First Federated Church or Lutheran Hillside Village.
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Published in Peoria Journal Star from Nov. 3 to Nov. 5, 2020.