Mary C. Jones, 99, of Neptune, NJ went home Sunday, November 3, 2019. She died at Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center (formerly Fitkins Hospital) in Neptune. She was born in Melbourne, FL, the oldest of 4 children. Mary grew up in Brevard and Charlotte Counties, Florida. This was where she grew her faith in the Lord as she experienced many obstacles.
Mary attended public school in Punta Gorda, FL. After the death of her mother, at a young age, Mary raised her brother and sisters while her father traveled to wherever he could work. After meeting and marrying George Jones, life changed. George was drafted in the armed services. The young family’s arrival to the Jersey Shore area in the 1940’s began after her husband’s discharge from Fort Dix Army base. She had been a Monmouth County resident for over 75 years.
Mary held many jobs before landing a position as food line worker at Fitkins Hospital. She performed various duties in the Dietary Department, eventually working her way up to department supervisor, where she stayed for 30 years before retiring in the late 1990’s. She was an accomplished interior decorator and food artist, loved gardening, pottery, reading, educating young people and was a staunch believer in our Lord Jesus Christ.
She is preceded in death by parents, Willie Sanders and Sallie Fannie Hall Sanders; brother, Charlie Sanders; grandchildren Kelly, John, Trevon; other grandchildren; daughter-in-law, Shirley Lattimore Jones; and her husband of 52 years, George Jones, Sr. She is survived by 2 sisters, Cora Mae Booker and Clara Liggins; 5 children, Mary Ann (Henry), George Jr (Bertha Allen), Harold Sr, Ralph (Ketura), and Judy (Harvey); 21 grandchildren, and a host of great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and many, many friends.
Mom’s story began with believing in the Lord early in life. In no way can a whole 99 years be told on a page or two, so the most memorable from her childhood as relayed to us and remembered to the best of our abilities are told below.
Mary, lovingly known to her grands as “Mother Mary”, starting life living in the extreme South, has lived a life of service. Daughter of an early teen mother and older, sawmill working father who travelled from mill to mill - sometimes many states away - to feed the family.
Her family mostly stayed with her grandmother, Momma Davis, who fed local farm workers, ran a neighborhood store and rented rooms to seasonal workers whom she frequently gave free meals to. This was the beginning of my mother’s entrepreneurial spirit and helping those needing a little care and empathy.
Mom always believed in God and she really used her faith! School was one of the best proving grounds for recognizing God’s powers. Grandmother Davis, mom’s grandmother, was strict when it came to getting home from school. It was shame on you if you weren’t in the door when that time came.
Mom was in grade school, not more than 2nd grade and there was this girl that always picked with mom (we call it ‘bullying” nowadays). Mom’s daily routine was to get out of class first and run home with all your might. One day it was especially bad. Mom didn’t get out of the class in time and the little girl was waiting with a great big grin on her face. No matter which exit she went to, the girl was there. She tried to out-wait her by doing little things for the teacher, but every time she looked outside, the girl was still there -grinning.
Mom looked at the clock, time was running out. Overcome, she went in the girl’s bathroom and started talking to the Lord. She told him about the girl, about her grandmother’s strict rules for coming home on time and how it wasn’t fair…it just wasn’t FAIR! She was lost in her conversation with God when a big *BONG* and a jolt that rocked the building (or at least the room that she was in) brought her out of prayer. She ran to the door and looked out - there, in the school yard, the flag pole had fallen and under the fallen flag pole was the bully. As she took off down the steps and ran up the street, she did look at her as she passed by. She got home in the nick of time and the girl never bothered her again. Mom’s faith in the Lord was solidified from that moment.
School was segregated. It used to be that all classes for students were in one single classroom, but that did not stop mom from excelling. She had a knack for numbers and was skipped from 6th grade to 7th because of her aptitude for math.
Momma was close to her mother, Sallie. After moving to Punta Gorda, she continued in the school system until she reached the highest grade she could go. She had to move to Momma Davis’ house (her grandmother) in Fort Myers to continue her education.
Mom was smart and the Lord was constantly moving in her life. She wanted to get as many credits as she could, so she also attended night school. She did not know that her mother, Sallie, was sick. She got all the credits, and more, that she needed to graduate high school!
By the time she came back to Punta Gorda, her mother had written a letter to her mother, Momma Davis, telling her she had cancer and she was dying. Momma Davis got her daughter and took her home to care for her and to take her to Jacksonville where the only hospital for Negros in that area could treat her.
Mom had to stay home in Punta Gorda to take care of her sisters and brother while her dad worked. She missed going to school that year; she was supposed to be in 11th grade. The next school year, after her mother died, she caught a ride with some girls who drove to the school in the nearest town that educated Negros. Even though she had missed a year, she was sure that she’d graduate with her class—yet again her faith would be tried. One of the male teachers wanted no good to come to our mother; if left to him, he would see that Mary would not graduate!
Mom had made a graduation dress from a set of curtains (she was a good seamstress), busying herself, for her big day. As the class was getting ready to go to the auditorium, the male teacher pulled her aside and told her she did not have enough credits, so she wouldn’t be graduated that day. Can you imagine the shock! Mom knew she had the points…she knew she had more than enough! She went to the office, they couldn’t find any record of the extra credits. By now her class was in the auditorium and names were beginning to be called. She was in tears. She found a place of solitude and began to pray. She reminded the Lord how she had tried her best, since she knew how to read, to do what his Word said; she reminded him of the extra classes she had taken and how she stayed home, missing a year of school, to take care of her siblings while her mother was dying; she reminded him of his promises.
Somewhere within her a voice told her that it was going to be all right, go and graduate. Being human, she asked, “But how?”, she was obedient to what she heard, even if she didn’t understand it. On her way, she ran into her English teacher, Jessie Bennett Sams. Jessie Bennett Sams was the future author of “White Mother”, 1957, a book about her and her twin and their life in the deep south, and the white woman who came to their aid.
Her teacher stopped her and asked her why wasn’t she out there with the rest of her class. After mom told her the story, Ms. Sams couldn’t believe it. She told her that she was getting ready to turn in her grade book and go on to the auditorium. She gave momma the credits she needed to graduate.
Momma never forgot how God moved in her life that day, moved on that particular teacher to meet up with her, and prevented injustice from happening that day. Up until she died, she loved reading the book, “White Mother” and having it read to her. Mom’s faith in the Lord was solid and it served her well over the years. She died knowing and believing in our Lord Jesus Christ and have been an example of the good God does in a life that is dedicated to Him, to Christ.
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