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Lifelong teacher turns 105

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  • 105th Birthday

    Edith Jones (right) taught Frances High at Rocky Seat School, the former one-room school house in Amherst County.

Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 10:25 am | Updated: 8:57 am, Thu Feb 6, 2014.

The year Edith Jones was born, the Wright Brothers carried their first passenger, Henry Ford produced the first Model T and China’s last emperor took the throne.

Jones, born in 1908, celebrated her 105th birthday on Friday, July 12; the following day she was surrounded by friends and family at a birthday party held in her honor.

“We don’t think of her as 105,” said nephew Kenneth Jones, an organizer of the gathering, held at Merredith’s Restaurant in Madison Heights.

“This is really a celebration of family and friends,” Kenneth said. “She was a teacher of many years, and she’s still teaching.”

More than a century has not diminished Edith’s memory.

Born in Fort Wayne, Ind., Edith’s mother was a domestic worker and her father worked on the railroads. Despite their blue-

collar backgrounds, her parents encouraged her to go to college, she said.

Perhaps physical activity aids in her longevity: She played basketball and tennis and later pursued gymnastics in high school.

Her mother was originally from Virginia, and the family would visit from time to time. After graduating from high school, Edith enrolled in the all-black Virginia Theological Seminary and College in Lynchburg, now known as the Virginia University of Lynchburg. She arrived at the school to study voice, but that goal changed upon experiencing the segregated conditions of the South.

“Well, when I came here … I saw the need for education in this area.”

Edith gained a degree in education and for many years taught first through seventh grades at the one-room Rocky Seat School in Amherst County, “a little school” she said. Her husband, Henry Jones, drove a school bus that provided transportation not only for students, but also for Edith.

“They wanted to learn,” Edith said of her students.

“They were really ready for education. I didn’t have any trouble. They just wanted to learn.”

One of those students was Frances High of Greenville, S.C. To High, Jones was a kind woman but an advocate of tough love. High attended Rocky Seat School from the first through seventh grades and recalled running through the school’s coal bin, knocking it down and piling it back up at Jones’ prodding.

“She would pop her hand with a ruler,” High said, “But we learned though.”

In 1965, Edith retired from teaching. She continues to live in the Monroe home she shared with her husband until he passed away.

Both of them were kind and loving people, Kenneth Jones said of his aunt and uncle.

Jones had no children of her own, but made an imprint on the lives of many.

“We’re all hers,” Kenneth Jones said.

“She’s helped so many people along the way. If they were here, they would say how her and Uncle Henry had helped them.”

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