Images of a lifetime pass on the screen, shepherded by a recording of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” one of his favorites.
Bob Jones the football coach, Bob Jones the mentor, Bob Jones the father, the dear friend.
Bob Jones the Highline High School senior, class of 1975. With hair. Lots of hair.
Friends and loved ones who remembered the Jones of the last 3½ years made bald by chemotherapy, chuckled at the surprise image of the younger, fully-haired Jones, as they celebrated the remarkable life of Auburn High School’s former coach and athletic director last Friday evening in the Auburn High School Gymnasium.
An hour and a half later, they filed out of the newly-named Bob Jones Gymnasium.
Jones, 60, died March 19 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Jones worked for the Auburn School District for 36 years, taught science and health for 22 of them, coached football, wrestling and boys soccer for two decades, and was the school’s athletic director for 24 years. He remained at the school for more than three years even as was fighting the cancer.
For 21 years, Jones walked in and was the coordinator for the American Cancer Society’s Auburn Relay for Life at Auburn Memorial Stadium.
Prompted perhaps by the letters, messages, emails from the people whose lives Jones touched in that span, all petitioning for the renaming of the gym in his honor, the Auburn School District took the cue and passed the resolution Feb. 27 that made it happen.
A high honor – only five Auburn High School District facilities bear a person’s name: Arthur Jacobsen, Dick Scobee, and Gildo Rey elementary schools; the James Fugate Administration Building; and now the Bob Jones Gymnasium.
Auburn High School had planned to announce the naming at a special assembly Friday, March 24, according to Principal Richard Zimmerman, but Jones died the previous Sunday.
“Bob Jones’ impact reaches far beyond what can be measured by his years of service,” said Laurie Bishop, president of the Auburn School Board. “His influence on generations of athletes as coach and athletic director has changed thousands of lives. His passion has spawned a coaching tree that extends to all three Auburn High Schools and beyond.”
Recognized by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, Jones is also a permanent member of the Washington Activities Association Hall of Fame.
And so the influenced, the guided, the mentored recalled the man with the upbeat spirit, unassailable even in his darkest days.
And his motto: “Focus on today.”
Players honor their coach
Members of the 1992 Auburn High School Football team were there, a nod to the tremendous influence “Jonesy” had on all of them, said Jeff Davis, co-captain of that winning team.
“He was a man with the gift for identifying individuals’ capabilities, and the altruism to encourage, empower and nurture those capabilities into accomplishments of countless people in this community,” Davis said, reading from a plaque the team presented to Jones’ widow, Sue, and his three children, Eric, Kyle and Taryn.
Phil Asernio, who met Jones on the Pee Wee gridiron when both were 9 years old, described a side of his friend that perhaps few knew.
“He loved rock and roll, he loved fast cars. … He loved his (Pontiac) GTO, and his locker was next to mine in high school. He would race at SIR (Seattle International Raceway, now Pacific Raceways) and on Monday say, ‘Ice, I blew the engine, I’ll have to rebuild it.’ Here’s a guy who in high school loved music, loved to sing ‘At the Hop,’ ” Asernio said.
He put a toilet seat in his high school football pads because, Jones told Asernio, it made him tougher.
Then Asernio looked around, saw the faces, the gym festooned with banners marking the successes of Auburn High sports teams past and present.
“Every time someone comes into this gym that’s never been in this gym, they’re going to ask, ‘Who is Bob Jones?’ And they’re going to know who he was, because he cared. He loved his friends and his family. He was a great coach, a great father, a great man.
“I loved Bob Jones from the very time I met him, and that love grew over a 50-year period,” Asernio continued. “I’ll never forget him. And the reason I’ll never forget him is, even when he was at the worst of his cancer, even when he was struggling just to talk and say something, he would send me a message on Facebook. … And I knew he had a smile on his face, I just knew it. …
“We’re going to walk away from here, but we’ll never forget what he stood for. He stood for a lot of positive things, and that anything was possible,” Asernio said.
Mayor Nancy Backus announced that the City intends to rename the segment of 4th Street Northeast that runs by Memorial Stadium Bob Jones Way.
“We all know that when we drive or do anything else, we want to do it the Bob Jones Way,” Backus said.
Eric Jones said his father had recently discovered hashtags, become hip, but having a street named for him, that baffled him.
“So what is the Bob Jones’ way,” Eric asked, and swiftly answered the question by pulling out and quoting from one of his father’s writings: “Say yes. Be humble. Say thank you. Put family first. Put the students first. Ask, how can I help? Find the positive. Don’t give bulletin-board material, but use it. Live a servant life. Have class. Be enthusiastic. Have fun, and lead, lead, lead, by example or action. I hope that what I have written here is what people will remember about me. I know I wasn’t perfect at any of them, but it’s what I tried for. (Hashtag)Street named for me.”
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Auburn Food Bank in his name.