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The life and times of Lallage Jones read like a great short story.
And now, that’s just what it is.
Her story, “Highlights of My Life,” is now a permanent part of the Peggy Howell-Heath Archive Room at First United Methodist Church.
Jones was also recently recognized by the city of Lancaster for her contributions.
A talented artist, Jones taught math at South Junior (now Middle) School for 13 years.
Mayor Joe Shaw said Jones has become an example for others to follow.
She still teaches Sunday School and is an active member of the Literacy Review Club.
“She’s truly remarkable and has the kind of life that makes Lancaster a great place,” Shaw said.
“You know, I sure hope I can get around as good as Mrs. Jones when I turn 102,” Shaw said laughing.
Jones celebrated her 102nd birthday on Oct. 11.
Married to the late Rev. Edward S. “Ed” Jones Jr., she has two children, Nancy Bradley of Lake Wateree and Susan Helms of Montgomery, Ala.; two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Much of her life has centered on FUMC.
The Joneses came to Lancaster in 1968 when Ed Jones became pastor at First Methodist.
The Joneses served at several state churches during Ed’s 59 years with the S.C. United Methodist Conference, but Lancaster became their home.
They moved back here in 1971 after Ed retired and was hired as chaplain at Elliott White Springs Memorial Hospital.
Ed was also an active civic leader and was affectionately known as “the minister of the county” for his ability and willingness to fill in for another pastor on a moment’s notice. Denominations mattered little to Ed Jones; if he was needed, he went.
“Her story is a wonderful addition to our church history because she has been such a major part of it for so long,” said fellow church member Sis Bauknight. “If I’m not mistaken, she is the oldest member we have ever had. That makes her story all the more special and unique.
“She’s been an true inspiration to everyone in our church family for a number of years,” Bauknight said.
Sharing her story
Lallage Jones shared her story with her daughter, Nancy, in September, who put it together for the church.
The middle child of three girls, Jones said when her mother, Mamie Blanton, went into labor, her father, Jesse, left their small Cleveland County, N.C., farm in a buggy to get the doctor. By the time they arrived, she was there to greet them. She said her mother threw back the covers to the foot of the bed and just waited for help.
“Somehow, I think this was sort of a metaphor for what would come in the future,” she said. “I have always had a sense of the dramatic and taking things at my own speed and time, just trusting things would be OK. And mostly they have been.”
After her family moved to Spartanburg, her father traded his plow for a traveling salesman’s suitcase. Jesse eventually gave up his Rawleigh products route and went to work as a store clerk before buying his own store.
Since the family mule, Hone, was no longer needed, he was sold.
One day out of the blue, Jones said the mule showed back at their home.
“He was in pretty bad shape and had been mistreated some,” she said. “The next morning before we could really do anything for him, we found him dead by the back steps.
“My father said he had found his way back home to die,” she said. “Even mules know they need people to love and take care of them. If you are at the end, you want those people there with you.”
Jones said much of her young life centered around Bethel Methodist Church in Spartanburg. After graduating from high school, she went to work at a local department store. One day, a rather prominent church member came in and was shocked to see her “trying to sell sweaters the boss overbought.”
As they talked, Jones said the lady asked her if she (Jones) intended to attend college. That was a luxury Jones said her family couldn’t afford. However, the shopper, whose husband was on the Converse College board, had other plans.
“Before I knew what was happening, I was accepted with a scholarship,” Jones said.
But the highlight of her life in the late 1920s wasn’t college. It was meeting “a guy named Edward Jones” who moved to Spartanburg with his mother and sisters after the death of his father, a Methodist minister.
The Joneses became one on May 27, 1931.
Edward Jones was assigned to a Methodist Church in Abbeville. She said they really loved the town, but life there was a daily struggle due to the Depression. Their next appointment was three churches in Phoenix, near Greenwood. Jones said life there was just as hard, but she never complained. There were no utilities whatsoever
Whenever they got the blues, Jones said they would sit on the porch steps and sing, “Come, let us be joyful; Come, let us be gay; Come let us be joyful and while the time away” at the top of their lungs.
“Then, we’d laugh at ourselves and feel better,” she said. “It’s a good thing to be able to endure, to laugh and to balance out one’s life when tough times come,” she said.
Jones said the birth of Susan got them out of that situation. They moved to Goldville (Joanna) near Newberry when they found out she was pregnant.
Susan was born in the middle of a flu epidemic.
After that, it was on to North Augusta. Nancy was born in Augusta and delivered by Dr. Allen George Thurmond (the brother of Sen. Strom Thurmond). From there, Edward Jones was assigned to churches in Whitmire, Columbia and Orangeburg.
Jones said at the time, Orangeburg was a civil rights hotbed and her husband was pressured to join a white citizens council, but refused. She said that decision had a few repercussions.
“This got him into hot water with some of the community, but Edward stuck to his principles and we found support there,” she said.
After serving on the state Methodist bishop’s cabinet in Columbia, Edward was able to choose his next church, which was First United Methodist in Lancaster. She said Lancaster seemed like “home” from the start.
The late G.T. Myers hired her as a teacher and her husband’s ministry here thrived from the start. He was friends with everyone, regardless of denomination. He even joined the Chamber of Commerce and served one term as its president.
“Edward particularly loved doing his walk downtown almost every day, speaking to everyone on both sides of the street in his booming voice,” she said.
The last leg of their ministry was spent in North Charleston.
They had started planning their retirement, but nothing was locked in stone, until her husband was offered the chaplain’s job at Springs Memorial Hospital.
“Now he was shepherd to a flock which included all kinds, races, (and) creeds of people – anyone who was in the hospital or nursing home. He loved it.”
Edward died in June 1989. She said being single again after 58 years of marriage is a daunting challenge. It was especially difficult about three months later when Hurricane Hugo struck.
“I was alone in my home,” Jones said. “I put on my faith armor (a pink raincoat and matching pink hat), knelt and said my prayers and got into bed to sleep.”
Jones said she figured she had done all she could do and the rest was in God’s hands. When morning came, she said everything was fine, except for having no power.
“I was fine,” she said. “My past life had given me some preparation for the inconvenience of life without electricity.”