Top Tri-Citian honored — George J. Jones humbly accepts annual award
This story was published April 27, 1997, Tri-City Herald
By MELISSA O’NEIL Herald staff writer
Persistent, yet soft-spoken.
Well known, yet behind the scenes.
George J. Jones is a modest man, and Saturday he’d planned to go trout fishing. Instead, friends baited him into going to the 1997 Tri-Citian of the Year banquet.
There, he was the catch.
“I’m very humble, I don’t deserve to be up here,” Jones said, minutes after he figured out he was the anonymous honoree.
Before the audience of 360 at the Pasco Red Lion Inn, Jones said he saw other people whose services to the community were equally noteworthy.
“I’ve just had longer to do it,” the 80-year-old said with a smile.
Then he realized what the announcement meant for the motor home already packed and ready to go. “Gosh, I won’t have time to go fishing at all.”
Jones lives in Kennewick with his wife of 58 years, Maxine. Their daughters George-Anne Kintzley of Kennewick and Penny Bayman of Everett, and his grandson Roy Kintzley, gathered on the stage while Jones accepted the honor. Also at the event were sons-in-law Dale Kintzley and Robert Bayman. Unable to attend were grandsons Rance Bayman and Lee Bayman and a 2-month-old great-grandson.
The award, sponsored by the area’s five Rotary Clubs, is given annually to the Tri-Citian who epitomizes “service above self” and has demonstrated outstanding leadership and contribution to positive development, economic growth and the quality of life in the Tri-Cities.
The Rotary clubs sponsor the award and the nomination process, but the recipient is picked by an independent committee.
Guest speaker Lee Bussard of Bellevue spoke – and joked – about the challenges he faces because of cerebral palsy. And how, despite his speech impediment and awkward gait, he’s not that different from other people.
“Whenever we deal with adversity, we grow longer legs for greater strides,” he said.
Jones is credited with helping the community and individuals take such strides.
He was nominated by Gary and Janet McEachern of Richland. Nine letters were submitted on Jones’ behalf, written by six previous award winners and three people who have seen his volunteerism firsthand.
“The original motto of Rotary International was, ‘He profits most who serves best.’ George is the richest man we know in our community in this aspect,” the McEacherns wrote in their nomination.
George and Maxine Jones moved to the Tri-Cities in 1947. They built a frozen-food locker rental business at 15 E. First Ave. in downtown Kennewick and lived in the apartments upstairs. After the 1948 flood, they expanded into meat cutting. They sold the business in 1975. It’s now Chuck’s Meat and Lockers.
The letters written about George Jones show his dedication to improving the Tri-Cities’ quality of life – from smiling at people while manning the Benton-Franklin County Fair entry gate to his instrumental role in gathering $200,000 for the East Benton County Historical Museum in downtown Kennewick.
The community’s health – physical and economic – has been his focus.
n He was key in raising money for construction of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, Kennewick General Hospital and the Kennewick Family Medicine clinic.
n He is in his 12th year as a Port of Kennewick commissioner, was a Consumer Credit Counseling Service board member for 10 years and was a volunteer business counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives.
Last year, Jones was awarded the DeMolay Legion of Honor by unanimous vote of the International Supreme Council of the Order of DeMolay. The award is the 3-million-member group’s highest honor for service to humanity. Also among Jones’ honors is the 1978 Kennewick Man of the Year award.
Perhaps lesser known examples of Jones’ service include:
n Arranging for collection of coins thrown into the Columbia Center mall’s fountains, which are donated to Shriners Hospital in Spokane. Each month, he and Maxine clean, count and roll the coins before taking them to the bank. He also collects change from battery-operated piggy banks placed in 25 Tri-City businesses. The efforts raise about $20,000 a year.
n Introducing the Pacific Northwest’s first Shriners screening clinic, to help find children in need of the medical care. He also drives children to the Spokane hospital when they have outpatient care appointments but no way to get there.
Thomas Moak, past president of the Kennewick Kiwanis, said Jones doesn’t join such organizations to “toot his own horn, but joins in order to serve his community.
“No job is too big or too small for George,” Moak wrote. “Because he does not do projects to make a big name for himself, he does not always get the credit that he deserves for his hard work.
“Much of what we take for granted here in the Tri-Cities is due to the persistence and leadership of George Jones. He has worked extremely hard and successfully so that others might find the Tri-Cities a better place to live.”