William E. Jones, Jr. (USAF Ret.), 84, passed away at his home in The Village of Chatham on November 4, 2020.
Born in Poughkeepsie, NY on August 19, 1936 to the late William E. and Verna E. (Lextrom) Jones, Bill grew up in Dutchess County, enjoying the quintessential childhood of a small-town boy. He and his brother spent long days outdoors, exploring nature, trout fishing, and bagging small game with their .22 rifles.
At Arlington High School, Bill played football, was named “Best Dancer” in his class of 1954, and began cultivating his keen intellect. A love of books and knowledge would accompany him throughout his life.
In 1957, fresh out of a two-year army enlistment, Bill discovered his avocation when a friend invited him along on a private flying lesson. He was immediately hooked. Having excelled in lessons as a civilian, he was selected for the Air Force’s rigorous Aviation Cadet Program in 1959, graduating at the top of Pilot Training Class 61-D. A distinguished career followed, first as a military pilot, including tours in Vietnam, then flying corporate jets. Bill was proud to have flown many different aircraft. The thousands of air hours he logged all over the world provided his family and friends with endless memorable stories, some interesting, some funny, and some terrifying. In retirement, Bill graduated summa cum laude from Marist College with a degree in computer math.
While piloting an Air Force evacuation mission in 1963, Bill was taken with a lovely flight nurse on board. He married Mary Ann (Harvell) and they spent the next 43 years together. They raised four children, all of whom survive him: his son Kevin (Zoila) of Clermont, daughter Sandra (Eric) Lucentini of Shelburne Falls, MA, and twin daughters Stephanie (William) Jones of San Antonio, TX and Laura (Jeremy) McGeorge of Shelburne Falls, MA.
Bill and Mary Ann made their home in Hopewell Junction then Millbrook, NY from 1980 until 2003, when they moved to The Villages. Bill made many dear friends here and was blessed with absolutely wonderful neighbors.
After Mary Ann passed away in February 2008, Bill met the former Joan Ann (Majo) Fraser. They were happily married from March 2011 until Joanie died suddenly in July.
Golf, a youthful pastime, became the defining passion of Bill’s later years. A three handicapper, in 2004 he shot his career low score of 67, besting his own age by a year. He played in the National Senior Games five times, receiving a fourth place ribbon, a Bronze, two Silver, and – finally! – Gold Medal in 2019. He appears twice on the NSGA’s “National Games Top 10 Performances and Records for Golf, Scratch Play.”
Bill stayed fit, exercising daily and watching his diet (while wrestling with a sweet tooth and digging in with gusto if he liked a dish). His cancer diagnosis in April came as a shock. Nevertheless, he was determined to beat the odds and get back out on the golf course. Even in his lowest moments, you might catch him squeezing his hand grip exerciser or doing leg lifts in bed.
There was so little to be thankful for this year, but Bill often told his children how happy he was to have them with him as they took turns caring for him at home. To his very last day he never lost his quick wit. With a twinkle in his eye and a smile cracking across his face, he’d come out with some perfectly apropos, utterly hilarious expression. His family will miss him dearly.
In addition to his children, Bill is survived by eight grandchildren: Kysha, Marianna and Cora Jones; Thaddeus Lucentini; Davis and Lilian Jones; and Livia and Hollis McGeorge. He also leaves his sister Karin (Myron) Pacula of Brandon, his sister-in-law, Kathleen Jones of Pleasant Valley, NY, and several nieces and nephews. His brother Richard E. Jones predeceased him in 2015.
A service for Bill will take place at a future date in Poughkeepsie, where he will be interred next to his wife Mary Ann.