A former development director and vice president of Divine Word College and an Epworth Fire Department volunteer is being remembered for his wit, selflessness and dedication.
The Rev. Robert “Bob” Jones died May 13, at the age of 80 at the Society of the Divine Word’s Chicago Provincial House in Techny, Ill.
Jones is survived by his brothers John and Richard and sister Carole Kelly, as well as many nieces and nephews.
He was born April 5, 1939, in Boston. Those who knew him would speak of his pride in the city and its sports teams, and of his Boston accent, which he never lost regardless of where he was in the world.
Richard Jones, Bob Jones’ younger brother, fondly reflected on their childhood memories, especially summer trips to Maine, diving off the rocks and catching lobsters.
“We were very close together, only 11 months apart,” said Richard, of Dracut, Mass. “We grew up as good friends and brothers.”
Richard described his brother as having an “indelible personality,” and that he made friends everywhere he went.
Jones was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1968. As a member of the Society of the Divine Word, he served as a missionary priest for nearly 60 years.
His work took him from New York to Rome to Papua New Guinea. In 1980, he arrived in Epworth, where, while serving at Divine World College, he became chaplain of the Epworth Fire Department.
Tom Berger, the department’s chief, said Jones played an integral role in the department, both professionally and personally.
“Any kind of serious call, he was able to work with the families and comfort them,” he said. “That was a side that a lot of volunteer fire departments can’t perform.”
Berger said Jones was “able to help the firefighters who were having a rough time” following a stressful call.
“Bobby’s love for fire service just kind of carried throughout his entire career,” Berger said. “He was there to help people in their time of need.”
Jones served on the force from 1983 to 1991, spending three years as president of the Epworth Community Volunteer Firemen, the department’s nonprofit organization.
As part of his ministry, Jones also coordinated marriage retreats for area couples. Jones met many friends through these retreats, including Dennis and Glady Felton, of Dyersville.
Dennis said he initially met Jones through his work as a volunteer firefighter, but it was during these retreat weekends that their friendship was solidified.
“We got the chance to do several weekends with him over the years and got to understand what he was all about, what priesthood was all about and what our church is all about,” Dennis said.
Glady said Jones’ “mission was helping couples.”
“The was one of the most important things to him,” she said.
The Feltons called Jones “a teacher, friend and fellow person on the journey.”