Goodbye for now, Uncle...
Recently, my uncle on my husband's side of the family, Oliver Jones (OJ) passed away. It's been so hard for my husband's side of the family. It seems all of the strong figures, the people who understood what to do when something went wrong, the people who were the face of the family, are falling so quickly away from us. It feels so unfair, and so fast. So incredibly fast. So fast it takes the air from our lungs, so that it becomes hard to speak our grief properly. I helped with the obituary, being writerly, as did my husband, being a jack of all awesomeness. I wanted to put it here. I want more people to know exactly the kind of man the world is losing, the best kind of man. That way, years from now, when all other sites have forgotten my uncle, I can go back to this post and say, "No, I won't forget."
So, again, I display loss on my blog. I feel like it has been a constant theme lately. There is no one more sorry than myself that that is the case. Indeed, it is a theme seemingly plaguing my family. So, for those who pray, we will accept those prayers eagerly. Thank you for remembering my loved ones with me.
Oliver Ralph Jones (Uncle OJ)
Oliver Ralph “OJ” “George” Jones was born on December 17, 1946 to Bob and Lillian Jones, and left us too soon on November 3, 2018. A proud Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal member, OJ lived much of his life on the tribe’s reservation.
Oliver was a proud Army vet and Vietnam War hero, who served as a combat medic, including with the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry 25th Infantry Division at the battle for Tan Son Nhut Air Base in 1968 during the Tet Offensive. He traveled far and wide to meet and honor his fellow veterans, and proudly spoke of his service at local reservations and schools, including at Wolfle Elementary. His words and his actions touched many.
Oliver worked for 25 years as a rigger at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, retiring in 1997. OJ was an important keeper of cultural teachings. He was a fixture of the annual tribal canoe journeys, pulling, helping the ground crew, and sharing songs and teachings with all. He carried the name Ta-tooch-win-is and practiced his culture and spirituality for many years through powwow dancing and through the Skokomish longhouse. When not attending cultural or spiritual functions, he could be found carving for them, painting drums, rattles, and paddles, or drying horse clams, and freely teaching others to do the same.
In the potlatching tradition, OJ was the host of his own lifelong giveaway, as well as the speaker for family giveaways. There was not a treasure he made or a gift he was given that he wouldn’t freely give to another. His spirit was one of generosity. OJ’s charisma and humor were well loved by all. He was best known for a goofy sense of humor, often greeting family and friends with a “What’s up, Dawg?” and ending a conversation with “I heart you, Dude.” His most treasured motto was Love, Honor and Respect. And he lived it, every day.
Oliver was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Karen Harris, his brothers Alan Jones and Mike Jones Sr., his nieces Rhonda Smith and NellieKim Sorenson, his granddaughter Raven McGill, and his great-nephew James Smith. He is survived by his children Duncan (Kelsey) Whyte, Cory (Andrea) Whyte, and Chaz Jones; his grandchildren Ian, Bradly, Cory, Collin, Charli, Brooklyn, Alena, Ryan and Oliver; his companion and best friend Nancy Meyer; his siblings Donna and Kevin Jones; numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins; and innumerable family and friends from near and far.
"Our Strength is Gone" a poem by H.M. Jones for Uncle OJ
No better word for a man who, it seemed, could not be beaten.
Not by the dredge war, internal battle of coming home,
dread memories of atrocities unknown, losses of friends then family.
Sickness attempted to bend your back, break you.
You stood, tall as you could, smiled, joked, spoke words that built others up,
sang songs that healed.
Even when your body sometimes failed you, your spirit strength never did.
A man who held my hand when his pain was so terrible he couldn’t stand,
and smiled and called me sweet niece,
you comforted others, never seeking your own peace.
No better word for a man who guided wherever he stirred;
sometimes firm, sometimes curt, sometimes soft, sometimes in tremulous grief.
You were our trusted source, the one who walked and lived history, ancestry, culture, paths few were strong enough to travel.
You knew, you always seemed to know where we were supposed to go.
Where, now, do we go?
No one more generous with those beloved,
his girls, his children, his family, his bountiful friends.
He bedecked us in high class gifts,
so often crafted with his paint-splashed hands,
sawdust blanketed him, a cedar coat of honor.
He gave, gave, gave, leaving so little for himself.
How do we manage when the strong are gone?
Is it enough to know you’re with your best friend?
With those who’ve made eternal peace their home?
Our grief would say no.
We are searching for your answers in hearts muddled by loss.
Our eyes drift over the crowd of uncertainty, searching for a form we will no longer see. We are left only with the wealth of the words you gave, the great example you left us.
And we must make it enough.
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H.M Jones is the author of B.R.A.G Medallion Honor and NIEA finalist book Monochrome, its prequel Fade to Blue, the Adela Darken Graphic Novellas, Al Ravien's Night, The Immortals series, and several short stories.