Brothers James R. “Jimmy” Jones and Lee F. Jones died within seven months of one another. They were close all their lives and even followed similar careers in carpentry and racing. Lee was also a musician, amongst his many other talents.
Lee was 81 when he died on June 5. Jimmy was 79 when he passed on Jan. 23. Both men were stricken with cancer.
Lee’s wife, Betty, and Jim Stultz, who worked with both men years ago, said Lee could play anything with strings on it.
Betty said Lee’s favorite was the mandolin.
He played his music and I went with him all the time. I booked the jobs and kept the boys in their (custom) shirts,” Betty said. “He played country music with a group called “Makin’ Changes,” and with the CB Pickers, they played country and bluegrass and gospel. It was more gospel toward the end.”
Lee played his instruments until close to the end of his life.
“He stopped playing when he was on chemo,” she said. “While he was on that his hands got all raw and it hurt too much for him to press the strings. So, he couldn’t play, and that killed him. He had played all his life.”
The couple met when Betty was 15, and Lee was 19.
“I met him on a blind date. He was a tiger,” said Betty. “My parents didn’t like me going out with him because he was older, you know. But once they got to know him, they loved him.”
After high school, Lee joined the Army. Because he had plans to start a family, he volunteered with the 82nd Airborne, which involved parachuting out of airplanes because it paid an extra $50 a month.
“I don’t believe I’d be jumping out of airplanes for that little bit of extra money, but that’s what he did,” Betty said.
Betty and Lee were married for 59 years.
While he was training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Lee landed in a tree and broke his ankle. During his recuperation he jumped on his motorcycle, cast and all, and rode back to Adams County, in the rain, just to see Betty.
Betty said she thought that was pretty romantic.
Both boys loved racing, specifically racing motorcycles, Betty said.
“Jimmy tried racing cars, too, but that didn’t work out too well. They were an outfit down in Emmitsburg; the guy who owned the car, a mechanic, and Jimmy was to be the driver. But the car was a lot different from the motorcycle. Jimmy couldn’t make it behave on the track, so that didn’t last too long.
Jim Stultz worked with the two brothers when he first started working as a carpenter, right out of high school.
“They were good, Stultz said. “Lee was an exceptional carpenter. He could build anything. Jimmy was a good worker. We had a great time.”
After Lee died last spring, when he was done with whatever job he was working on, Jimmy would go to Betty’s house and mow her lawn and do whatever work needed to be done.
“Jimmy would work 24/7, and still come by and see that my yard was done,” she said.
Betty said Jimmy worked all the time, right up to November when he began to suffer pain that turned out to be pancreatic cancer.
“He was surprised when he got sick” she said. “He had planned on being around to take care of me after Lee died. Until then, he could run right up the driveway like somebody a lot younger.”
“They were both very nice,” said Stultz. “They both raced motorcycles. Lee was really good, one of the top racers in the Outlaw Series on the east coast.”
Betty showed off a closet full of Lee’s trophies. She said there had been more, but Lee had given some away.
“Back in the early 70s, me, and Lee and Jimmy drove down to Daytona Speedway to watch a race. We left on Friday got there on Saturday, watched the race on Sunday afternoon and were home by Monday afternoon. We had a great time.”
Sue B. Tanner of Gettysburg said Jimmy had done some carpentry work for her about 10 years back.
“He was very kind and thorough,” she said. “I would stay around him while he worked, and we would talk. He also had a radio with him, and he was always listening to NASCAR races. I had never paid any attention to them, but during the time he worked for me, I got to know a little bit about it and even got to recognize the names of some of the drivers. It was fun.
“I had to go into the hospital for some surgery, and while I was in there, Jimmy came to visit to see how I was doing. It was a very sweet thing to do,” she said.
Another time, Tanner attended the funeral of a friend for whom Jimmy had also done some work.
“I saw Jimmy standing off a little distance away, obviously there for the graveside service, but at some little distance away,” she said. “I tried to get him to come closer, but he shook his head. Later, I asked him why, and he said that he didn’t really know those people and was not related to them, but he wanted to pay his respects. He was very old fashioned that way,” she said.
Jimmy is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Holly Liller, and a number of stepchildren and step-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his first wife Claire Jones; his companion Peggy Griffith.
In addition to his wife and sister, Lee is survived by two daughters, Deb Hopkins of Carlisle and Donna Jones of Emmitsburg; by six grandchildren, Meghan, Lee, Amber, Mandy, Kirsten, and Kendra; and by three great-grandchildren.