Islander Bill Jones, 78, died on Jan. 28 in Vidant Hospital, Greenville, after suffering a fall on Ocracoke Island.
His wife and sons were with him, and he died peacefully. Everyone who knew him loved him and he loved us all.
He was the husband of Lida Inge Wylie Jones.
George William “Bill” Jones, Jr. was born on December 13, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama, to the late George and Alice Jones.
Bill grew up in Talladega, Alabama. He attended (and loved) Indian Springs High School in Pelham, Alabama. He received a bachelor’s degree from Davidson College, a Master of Divinity from Columbia Seminary, and a Doctor of Divinity from Louisville Seminary.
Bill met Lida on a blind date when they were sophomores in college. They married after graduation and took a six-week road trip to California and back. That was the beginning of 54 wonderful years of marriage.
Bill served as a pastor at Waverly Road Presbyterian Church (Kingsport, Tenn.), Covenant Presbyterian Church (Johnson City, Tenn.), and Balmoral Presbyterian Church (Memphis, Tenn.). He taught a faith of tolerance for all people no matter who they were or what they believed. He touched countless lives with his love and grace.
After 31 years in the ministry, Bill retired and began a part-time career as a storyteller. His stories will be available soon for all to hear on YouTube at the channel “Bill Jones, Storyteller.”
In 1999, Bill and Lida attended a storytelling workshop with Donald and Merle Davis on Ocracoke.
They fell in love with the island and moved there in 2007. Although they enjoyed trips off the island, a big smile and a sense of peace came over Bill every time he boarded the ferry back to Ocracoke. He loved walks on the beach, sunsets, island birds, and, most of all, the community.
As a teenager, Bill took his first backcountry canoe trip in the Quetico boundary waters. He loved it so much he returned many times to lead groups through Outward Bound school and took numerous friends and family members over the years. His last canoe trip was in 2019 with his sons and his granddaughter, Shannon.
Movies gave him great joy. He cataloged more than 12,000 movies that he watched over his lifetime and passed this passion on to his children.
Music was a big part of Bill’s life. He sang in the male chorus and the Lamplighters quartet at Davidson and was a member of each church’s choir where he loved to sing “O Holy Night” on Christmas Eve.
He enjoyed Christmas music and also Spike Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Molasses Creek, Everly Brothers, Coyote, John McCutcheon, Chet Atkins, Johnny Mathis, Chad Mitchell Trio, Jimmy Durante, Martin Garrish and an endless list of artists. Christopher and David have both played in bands and music is a huge part of their lives.
Bill loved books and introduced his children to “The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “Watership Down” and other stories that show how the world is full of magic and wonder. Geoff recently began a career as an author, and Bill was his most supportive and devoted fan.
The love that Bill and Lida shared for one another is beyond measure. They shared laughter, joy and comfort. They took care of each other. Together, they made the world a better place.
Bill / Dad / Mr. Jones / Papa / “Tantese” will be remembered by all as a gentle, kind, loving, and joyful man.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three sons (Geoff, Christopher, David) and their families. Geoff, Erin, Shannon (17) and Sydney (14) live near Denver. Christopher, Sharon, Alex (16) and Owen (13) live near Boston. David and Jennifer live in San Francisco. He is also survived by nieces, nephews and an extended family he loved dearly.
A celebration of Bill’s life is planned for March 26 on Ocracoke.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to one of the following:
Storytelling and music drew Bill and Lida to Ocracoke. Bill sponsored and volunteered at the Ocrafolk festival and loved the Latino festival. Both events are run by Ocracoke Alive.
Bill volunteered at the Ocracoke Preservation Society museum. He loved connecting with visitors and sharing the history of the island.
Bill volunteered at Ocracoke School and shared his love of learning with students on the island. Charlotte Castro was the daughter of dear friends Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro. When Charlotte passed away in 2010, Lida and Bill started the “Charlotte Castro Scholarship Fund” for Ocracoke School seniors to support her memory. Keeping this tradition alive would honor him.
Make checks payable to “Ocracoke School” with a memo: “Charlotte Castro Scholarship Fund.” Mail to Ocracoke School, PO Box 189, Ocracoke, NC 27960.
The Ocracoke Health Center does an amazing job caring for residents and visitors, including those who struggle to afford health care. Bill often said the doctor and staff were the best he ever knew, and he would love to help keep them going strong.
Make checks payable to “Ocracoke Health Center” with a memo: “contribution in honor of Bill Jones.” Mail to Ocracoke Health Center, PO Box 543, Ocracoke, NC 27960