Alaska Pioneer and longtime Homer resident Wayne E. Jones, 89, died Thursday, May 08, 2014 in Homer, Alaska.
Wayne was born in Syracuse, N.Y. on Nov. 19, 1924 to O. Vinal and Etta (Nash) Jones. As described in his father’s diary on the day of his birth, Wayne was a “well-built little fellow.” He was born while his mother accompanied his father on a business trip, and they returned to their River Edge, N.J. home the following week.
In 1929, tragedy struck Wayne early in life when his mother, Etta, died of complications from an appendix surgery when he was only 4 years old. Wayne had a younger and older brother, and with the devastating loss of his mother — and his father grief stricken — it was decided that he and his younger brother, Byron, should live with his aunt Alta in Los Angeles, Calif. Wayne traveled via the Panama Canal to Los Angeles, and lived there for five years before returning to the east coast in 1935. He reunited with his family and lived in Pemaquid (Bristol) Maine.
Living in Maine, Wayne learned to hunt, fish and had a great interest in archery and marksmanship. In May 1943, Wayne was drafted into the army and reported for duty. As an infantryman sharpshooter in the army during WWII in the Pacific, Wayne made beach landings at Leyte Gulf, Guam and Okinawa, and is well-known for his war stories. Upon his January 1946 return from the war, Wayne read “A Call of the Wild,” by Jack London, and had his heart set on Alaska.
In May, 1946 Wayne and his older brother bought an old Ford truck and started out for Alaska.They arrived in Seattle, and then completed the journey to Anchorage by ship by the end of June, 1946. Wayne, his brother, and other WWII veterans walked the beach from Ninilchik to Homer to select a piece of land to homestead. A waterfall caught Wayne’s eye on the beach walk to Homer, just north of Happy Valley. He decided that, “if there is water, then I could survive.”
Life on the homestead was rough, but Wayne’s skills from his childhood in Maine, as well as his ability to persevere through the war, saw him through. But life was lonely on the homestead. Wayne’s older brother met a girl during the war in Germany. The girl’s sister wrote to Wayne after the war, starting a love letter writing campaign.
On Feb. 14, 1954 at the Anchorage airport, Wayne finally met Dora Mattheus after they had corresponded for six years. Wayne and Dora were married four days later. He did not know German and she did not know English, but it was love at first sight.
Wayne lived on the homestead with Dora, and they had a son one year later. Wayne then started his career as a heavy equipment mechanic with the CAA in 1955, before it became the FAA in 1958. He traveled all over Alaska for the FAA, but eventually settled into a stationary position at the Homer FAA station in 1962. His second son was born, and Wayne bought the well-known “little blue house” on the hill. A daughter soon followed in 1966, and he remained with the FAA in Homer until his retirement.
His career lasted 30 years.
Wayne enjoyed tinkering, inventing and science — which is evident with the construction of his own canon that he used to start the sailboat races at the end of the Homer Spit back in the 60s. He also hand-built the waterwheel and generator next to his house, his half-track backhoe, a modified snow blower in which he received an award, and many other projects too numerous to list.
Retired life brought time for Wayne to tinker, travel and enjoy time with his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on his beloved homestead in Happy Valley. Wayne took pride in being a husband, father, grandpa, pioneer Alaskan, WWII Veteran and was always eager to bend an ear at the coffee table. He will be terribly missed by all that knew him.
Wayne was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Dora A. Jones, his first son Vinal “VJ” Jones, and his older brother Gordon B. Jones.
He is survived by his daughter Etta (Jones) Toci and her husband Angelo, grandchildren “AJ” and Amanda all of Anchor Point; his son Dwayne Jones and his wife Kimberly, along with grandchildren Isaac and Simon, all of Kenmore, Wash.; Granddaughter Mariah (Jones) Simpson, great-grandchildren Justice, Tyson, Tobias, and Liberty —all of North Carolina, and his younger brother Byron K. Jones of Anchorage. He is also survived by many in-laws in Germany.
A public memorial service is being planned and will be announced soon. Wayne’s ashes will be laid to rest next to his wife and oldest son in a private ceremony on his treasured homestead north of Happy Valley.
Condolences may be sent to: Jones Family PO Box 272 Homer, AK 99603
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