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Pat Jones, a leader in education, church and community, dies at 78

Ninth Avenue School alumni look at a display of photos, news clips and other memorabilia as part of Ninth Avenue School Day at Hendersonville Middle School. Pat Jones started her teaching career at the school in 1963. Ninth Avenue School alumni look at a display of photos, news clips and other memorabilia as part of Ninth Avenue School Day at Hendersonville Middle School. Pat Jones started her teaching career at the school in 1963.

Pat Jones would have loved the event in the Hendersonville Middle School library on Thursday.

 

 
Seventeen graduates or former students of the old Ninth Avenue School reunited to celebrate the school that educated generations of African American children before desegregation. The former Ninth Avenue School students enjoyed looking at a history display, sang the alma mater and the school fight song and school chants.
Jones, who died on Monday at age 78, would have felt at home. She got her first teaching job at Ninth Avenue School and was a leader in education, her church and civic life in her adopted hometown for more than 50 years.
"She’s an outstanding person," said Ronnie Pepper, who has known Jones all his adult life. "She was well educated, she loved teaching, she was always looking to better anything she was involved in, especially the black community. When nobody else would do it, she always ran the black history program (at Star of Bethel Baptist Church). She knew she was going to have something that was educational and had different activities, make crossword puzzles, things like that to educate."
Born on April 18, 1940 in Charlotte, to W.M. and Lillian Ferguson in Charlotte, Patricia F. Jones was was the oldest of four children. She attended the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system where she was a proud graduate of Second Ward High School.
After graduating from high school she earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education at Shaw University in Raleigh in 1963. Upon graduation, she took a job at Ninth Avenue School. After two years, she moved back to her hometown for a teaching job at Billingsville Elementary and after desegregation taught the predominately white Shamrock Gardens Elementary School. She then returned to Hendersonville, teaching at Bruce Drysdale Elementary in the old city school system. Jones taught for well over 20 years at Bruce Drysdale, and even after retirement substitute taught on occasion.
During her teaching career at Bruce Drysdale, she was a beloved and admired teacher that instilled in her students the love of learning. To her colleagues, she was admired as an educator, friend and confidant. A faithful and dedicated member of Star of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, she served as president of the Mission Circle for many years, as well as many other capacities such as the driving force behind Black History Month activities.
Surviving are her husband of more than 50 years, Lemuel Jones of Hendersonville, son Anthony “Kelly” Jones (Anicia) of Wylie, Texas, two grandsons, Jaylen Jones (Brittany) of Richardson, Texas, and Courtney Jones of Wylie, Texas, great grandson, Kyree Jones of Richardson, Texas, sister Marian Reid of Charlotte, brother, Lorenzo Ferguson of Mitchellville, Maryland. Also surviving are brother-in-law, James Pilgrim Jr. (Juanita) of Fayetteville, three sisters-in-law, Gracie Morris (Bernard) of Altamonte Springs, Florida, Sandra Vance of Philadelphia, and Carolyn Booker of Las Vegas, and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.
Besides her parents, she was also preceded in death by two brothers-in-law, Cary Booker and William Reid, and a sister-in-law, Carole Ferguson.
At the Ninth Avenue School celebration at Hendersonville Middle School on Thursday, people who knew Pat Jones talked about how well respected and well-liked she was.
"She was an elementary teacher when I was in high school," said Jessie Jenkins Wilson. "She's very well liked. She tried to participate in different things. She did the black history, made sure the bulletins were done. I put an article on the Facebook page where she had passed and children, they were just in awe. They were just in awe, (saying) what a nice teacher she was."
Wilhelmina Mills added: "She taught one of my sons (Marrion). He was in third grade. She was a very likable person. Very good teacher. My son thought the world of her."
Madeline Cunningham Royes knew Jones for her community leadership.
"Her reputation was spotless," she said. "That's the only way I know to put it. She did great work in her church as well, because I've been to several services where she was able to each."
During 14 years of service on the Community Foundation of Henderson County, Jones provided a key link to the black community and was a faithful member of the governing board, grants committee and outreach committee.
"She has just always been available to help and assist in most anything we had going on," said foundation President McCray Benson. "It was a shock to lose Pat. We knew she was battling with cancer. She had taken a small sabbatical off the board and she actually asked should she leave the board and we said, 'No, take the time to heal.'"
She came back and was doing well.
"She seemed energized and had that same spark she always had," Benson said.
"She loved the community college and she worked with them," he said. "She’s a supporter of education in this community and loved her church and Sunday school."
 
Starting on the board the same year Benson arrived as president and CEO, Jones was one of the first people he got to know well. Both shared the experience of growing up in Charlotte. Jones served on the board from 2005 to 2011, then returned in 2016.
"Through that entire time she stayed on our grants committee," Benson said.
When the foundation decided it needed to do more to connect to the African American and Latino communities, Jones co-chaired the committee that reached out.
"She’s very important in that she was able to help identify some of the historical connections," Benson said. "We could only do so much in calling folks together. One night we had a dinner at Daddy D’s and we were just letting them talk and people really opened up and talked about same things and they all said it was their own responsibility to step up and start taking part in seeing change happen. ... She made a good start in the Outreach Committee. Part of its purpose is to have people find a way we can discover the difference in how leadership formulates itself within diverse groups and how we can empower that and do better for community work."
A funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at Star of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. The family will receive friends at noon. Burial will be in Oakdale Cemetery.