I wasn't old enough to remember the basketball exploits of Don Jones at Farrell High School in the mid-1950s. But nonetheless, I heard enough about him from my parents and others in later years that he became one of my childhood idols.
I have had the great fortune to become friends throughout the years with the retired colonel and decorated Vietnam war hero, and I always enjoy his stops by The Herald when he’s visiting or passing through the area.
Everyone knows when the colonel is in the building. He’s an imposing figure at 6 feet 7, and many of the Herald employees who don’t know him are somewhat awed by his presence.
Two weeks ago, he stopped by to chat. He and his wife Lil were on their way to Niagara University, his college alma mater, to receive yet another award from the New York university.
He was honored Oct. 12 with the “Niagara Legacy – Alumni of Distinction” award in conjunction with the ROTC Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
The letter he received from university president James J. Maher stated, in part, “Your achievements in the aircraft manufacturing and law enforcement industries, and especially your decorated service to our country place you high among the ranks of our distinguished alumni.” Jones was a basketball star at Niagara and excelled in the ROTC program while there, forming the foundation of his distinguished military career during which he was a paratrooper and a member of special forces, a Green Beret.
In 2008, I was honored to have edited the manuscript for his autobiograpy, “The Path Set for Me,” in which he chronicles his life from his days as a youth in the coal mining town of Indiana, Pa. and his migration to Farrell and his military and post-military careers.
I always find his love of the Farrell community and the special people in his life like the late Coach Ed McCluskey who served as guideposts both refreshing and inspiring.
Don Jones is one of THE special people I have had the opportunity to meet in my life, and I am the better for it.
Encore: Cheers to WaterFire
I join colleague Lynn Saternow, who in his Saturday column praised the WaterFire event that was staged in Downtown Sharon during the summer.
In tribute to the organizers, I am amazed how smoothly the three separate days of WaterFire went considering the magnitude of the project, and considering that it was the inaugural event in the city.
Any time you mix the complexity of staging such an event with trying to accommodate tens of thousands of spectators jamming the downtown streets and bridges, you have to keep your fingers crossed.
But organizers and their dedicated corps of volunteers did a terrific job in planning for potential hazards, and they put on a great show that is destined to become a regional summer tradition.
Jim Raykie is the executive editor of The Herald. His column appears on Mondays.