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Kiwanians pay tribute to devoted member Chat Jones

Flowers mark Chat Jones' seat at the Hendersonville Kiwanis Club. Flowers mark Chat Jones' seat at the Hendersonville Kiwanis Club.

Chat Jones's beloved Kiwanis Club, where he had logged 39 years of perfect attendance, paid tribute to the longtime member and service leader during its regular meeting on Thursday.

Jones died Friday night of accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning while working at his used car dealership. At age 63, he had spent nearly his entire adult life as a Kiwanis Club member, serving as president in 1987, winning recognition as the Lay Leader of the Year in 2008 and single-handedly inventing and carrying out numerous charitable efforts to help needy children, young teenagers and single moms.
KiwanisQuartetBill Williston, Ben McKay, Buddy West and Ken Perkins lead Kiwanians in 'I'll Fly Away'Ken Swayze, who heads up the club's Salvation Army bell-ringing effort, said that Jones told him the same thing every year as the bell-ringing signup came to a close.
"He'd say, Just let me know what slots are not filled and I'll be there," Swayze said. "It's just a little bit more about who Chat was."
As the schedule turned out, Thursday was club day, when the club devotes the meeting to activities in the organization and has no formal program.
Dr. Seth Novoselsky, a semi-retired physician from New Orleans who regularly closes his Caring Committee report with a joke about two hapless Cajuns, walked to the platform, stood at the microphone, hesitated for a moment. "Thibodeaux and Boudreaux send," he said ... pause ... "their condolences."
Song leader Ken Perkins went off the Kiwanis songbook for a tribute, "I'll Fly Away."
Paul Alexander, a fellow First United Methodist Church member and club piano player, learned the song today.
"This was a song I did not know," Alexander said. "I think we all feel that Chat left us without saying goodbye and we didn't get a chance to say goodbye to him and we thought this is a song that would do it for us."
Led by the quartet of Perkins, Bill Williston, Buddy West and Ben McKay, the Kiwanians joined in the old gospel standard:
One bright morning when this life is o'er
I'll fly away
To that home on God's celestial shore
I'll fly away.
President Stephanie Bagby opened the floor to Chat tributes, and more were proffered than time allowed. Monday night during the visitation that stretched for blocks and lasted more than five hours, Bagby recalled overhearing a similar conversation up and down the line. "I heard people say, I remember when he ... And I know that all of you can remember when he made an impression."
John Grear recalled working with Jones on many charitable projects, including the shoe program started by Morris Kaplan more than 50 years ago. When it came to charity, Jones gave generously and had a talent for making others give too. "That guy could even get money out of Rotary," Grear said.
A homeless student from Hendersonville High School rose out of the ditch of disadvantage to gain admission to N.C. Central University, said Dr. Don Jones, president of the Henderson County Education Foundation. He needed a laptop; Jones got him one. He needed transportation to Durham; Jones made it happen. Now the young man is running for student government.
"He's in the race for vice president of that school and he's homeless," he said. "He's got a laptop, though, and he's got a ride."
Mike Earle recalled arriving with his wife, Caroline, to a cleanup and landscaping project at Balfour School, which Jones had adopted. He looked at a pickup truck overloaded with mulch, topsoil, shrubs and flowers. "I noticed there was an awful lot of stuff and I asked where did this come from," Earle said. "He just smiled. He didn't want to admit he paid for all the supplies and flowers.... You won't find many used car salesmen like Chat."
KiwanisDiapersChat Jones started the effort to collect diapers and wipes for babies at Balfour School, where single moms with newborns get their degrees.Thursday's meeting was one of the very very few since 1973 when Chat Jones was not in attendance, from the Skyland hotel, to the former Chariot location to the current Chariot in the old Clifton's Cafeteria.
Called on for the invocation, past president Doug Moon (and fellow Edneyville High School graduate) evoked the New Testament story from John 6 of the disciple Andrew finding a young boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, which Jesus used to feed 4,000 followers. The miracle never would have happened, Moon said, if the boy had not had a mother or father who packed the boy's lunch.
"Chat Jones packed a lot of lunches in his short life on this earth," Moon said. He turned to the Kiwanians and here is what he said: "How many lunches have you packed lately?"