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Fred Jones, county native and father-in-law of UNC coach, dies at age 96

Fred Jones poses with portrait of his father in a Lightning file photo from 2012. Fred Jones poses with portrait of his father in a Lightning file photo from 2012.

MILLS RIVER — Frederick Bascom Jones, who traced his family lineage to the early settlement of Flat Rock before the Civil War, died Wednesday after an extended period of illness. He was 96.

 

Jones wrote about his family history and the death of his father at the age of 30 in a book that came out in 2012, "Darkness Comes in the Morning." Jones detailed the family tree reaching back to a great-grandfather, John Jasper McCall, who made a living on "a dirt farm high in a small valley between Pinnacle Mountain and Chestnut Ridge in southern Henderson County."

John Jasper McCall's son, Frederick Bascomb, would marry Rebecca Stepp. Among the 11 children of Frederick, known as Bug, and Rebecca was Fred Jones' mother, Fannie. Fannie would marry Belton Carmichael Jones Jr. of Flat Rock, the hero of Fred Jones' story. A railroad telegraph operator until he became too sick to work, Belton Jones died of tuberculosis "in the morning of his life" on June 5, 1926, his son wrote in "Darkness Comes in the Morning."

A graduate of Flat Rock High School, Jones attended Brevard College before joining the Army Air Corps, where he served in the Pacific theatre as an airplane mechanic the 13th Air Force during WWII. When the war ended, the Air Force sent him to the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, where he met his wife, Cleo Garner, who is from that area. Following his discharge he attended NC State University under the GI Bill and received bachelor's and masters degrees in chemical engineering.

He spent his career in engineering at American Enka Corp., registering several patents while employed. He was an active member of Skyland United Methodist Church where he served as Sunday School teacher, Sunday School Superintendent and member of the Methodist Men, and particularly enjoyed singing in the choir. He also volunteered with the Meals on Wheels program of the Council on Aging of Henderson County.

Among the three daughters Cleo and Fred Jones had was Wanda, who began dating a fellow T.C. Roberson High School alumnus at UNC named Roy Williams. Williams, who was raised by a single mother in Asheville, was close to his father-in-law. 

In a tribute to the close bond the two had, UNC basketball writer Adam Lucas describes Williams visiting Fred and Cleo Jones's home when he was dating Wanda.

"On that evening, Williams did something he'd never done before—he sat around a table with a mother and a father and their children, and they ate together."

"Until I started dating Wanda," Lucas quoted Williams as saying, "I had never had a dinner together."

Although Fred Jones had attended UNC basketball games in Chapel Hill as recently as a year ago, he became ill last winter and was unable to travel. Coach Williams made at least 20 trips to Mills River to visit him, Lucas reported. (Wanda and Roy Williams have a home in Flat Rock where they can stay during visits to her parents.) Fred Jones was a doting grandfather to his four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, never missing their birthdays and letting them sit on a tractor at his small farm.

"Williams learned how to be a father largely by watching a combination of his mother, and his high school coach, and by making sure he did the opposite of what his own father had done," Lucas wrote. "He learned how to be a grandfather by watching Fred Jones."

He is survived by Cleo, to whom he was married for 71 years; daughters, Wanda Williams (Roy), Cheryl Janoski (Ken), and Sandy Waldrop (Larry); grandchildren Scott Williams (Katie), Kimberly Newlin (Kurt), Kelly Terry (Joe) and Hunter Jackson (John); great-grandchildren Aiden Williams, Court Williams, Kayson Newlin, Kenzie Newlin and Booker Terry; and a niece Suzette Hackett (Ray) and nephew Leonard Barnwell (Jane).

He was preceded in death by siblings Reba Barnwell, Belton Burnon Jones and Hugh Jones, a niece Ann McKinney and a nephew Lawrence Barnwell, Jr.
Private family graveside services will be conducted by the Revs. Joy Moss and James Howell at Calvary Churchyard in Fletcher. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Skyland United Methodist Church, the Council on Aging of Henderson County, Meals on Wheels program, the Henderson County Genealogical and Historical Society Inc. or the Four Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care Foundation. An on-line register is available at GroceFuneralHome.com. To a plant a Memorial Tree in memory of Fred Jones, visit this site.

 

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This story also contains information from Adam Lucas's column at goheels.com and from an obiturary by Grove Funeral Home.