Longtime resident reflects on his past
Jarry Jones, an 81-year-old Mt. Laurel resident, has spent his entire life in Mt. Laurel. Jones keeps township history in both his mind and in his home.
“I was born in a farm house in Mt. Laurel. There are probably no more than a dozen of us left that were born in Mt. Laurel,” Jones said.
Jones grew up as a dairy farmer, until his family had to sell the farm in 1959.
He said the farms surrounding his were all sold, leaving his family no choice but to follow along.
“So my life changed at that point,” he said.
Jones’ farm was turned into a section of the Ramblewood Country Club, and has been that way for approximately 50 years. When his family sold the property, Jones and his older brother Harvey, who was known as Pete, went to work for the man who bought it.
“We sold the farm and went to go work for the guy that bought the farm. He started to build a golf course and my brother and I negotiated and told him ‘look, we have been raised in grass all of our life. We just have to learn what it takes to run a golf course,’” Jones said.
The brothers were hired from the beginning days and were involved in the construction, he said. Jones said his brother became superintendent and he became the assistant.
“That’s the way it was for 10 years, and I was involved in the greens themselves,” he said.
Jones said he ordered materials and worked with a guy maintaining the greens. He said half way through the project, his boss fired the guy he was working under and put Jones in charge. Jones said he continued to order materials and deliver them, until his boss called him into his office one day.
“The boss called me into his office. He said to me ‘next week, you are going to be able to fire a gun through here and not hit a soul,’” Jones said, adding his boss had 25 to 30 employees on the course, owned four sewer plants and three water plants. But his boss was leaving the construction business.
“He sold the water and sewage plants to the townships,” Jones said.
His boss was going out of the construction business completely, had 100 houses under warranty and 20 in various stages of construction. Jones said his boss was firing the entire crew, hiring a new one, and putting Jones in charge of the properties.
“I worked half a day on the course and half a day in construction. I did that until the year was up,” he said.
Jones said he was in construction for about 20 years and his final title was project manager for Goodwin Enterprises. He managed the construction of dozens of apartment complexes as far north as Jersey City.
Jones did a lot of traveling to various construction sites and apartment complexes, and always carried a full set of tools.
“I used to say if I can’t fix it out of the trunk of my car it’s not worth fixing,” Jones said. “One of the things that men in [my boss’] position before him never did was, if I had a little job, I did it. I didn’t call a contractor.
Jones said when the apartments were built, he became head of maintenance and hired various crew members to take care of the grounds on a day-to-day basis. Jones was also involved in the construction and was manager of the Ramblewood Apartments.
From the sliding glass door to his back porch, you could see a few of the apartment buildings from the Ramblewood complex.
But before Ramblewood Apartments existed, Jones said he built his home in 1962, a year after he was married to his late wife Nancy.
Jones has three children and six grandchildren all close enough to visit often. He said his son Jarry Jr. lives just down the road.
When Jones built his house in 1962, he brought items he had found on his family’s dairy farm as well as a few farming tools.
Jones said when he was farming, he would find Native American relics in the soil. Over the years, he saved the items, and when his home was built, he stored the items from his farm in a small closet under the basement stairs. He said the door to the closet is the attic door in the farm house.
“Everything in there was on the farm. Handmade nails and everything,” Jones said.
He brought out a guillotine that was used to cut off cows’ horns, and pointed out a paddle used to mix scrapple.
Jones also said the book shelf built into the wall and the decorative fire mantle in the basement are also from the farmhouse.
Jones saved Native American relics and farming equipment showing the history of the township and family.
He was asked to share the history of Thunderbird Farms — an old Native American relic museum in Mt. Laurel — to the historical society.
But Jones is involved in Mt. Laurel more than spending his 81 years of existence and sharing past memories. Jones spent 65 years on the fire department, holding every position other than chief. He is a member of the Quaker Meeting House and the Mt. Laurel Rotary Club, where he held many positions.
He also coached soccer for 13 years. Jones was not the athletic type, but he knew how to relate to the kids who weren’t good at sports.
“I never played soccer, and I am not an athlete, which I felt was good because I could relate to these kids there were not athletic,” he said.
Jones is planning on committing to his volunteer duties to the end, and to the duties of his hometown. He was the first male president of the PTA — an organization his mother started in Mt. Laurel. He said when he was looking for farming properties after the dairy farm was sold, he was assistant chief of the volunteer fire company and didn’t want to buy land outside Mt. Laurel.
“I wouldn’t even buy a piece of ground out of the township to build a house because I was assistant chief of the volunteer fire company and I was faithful to my fire company,” he said.
With his family history and his livelihood attached to the town, Jones said he does not plan on going anywhere. He said he has been a bachelor for the past two years after his wife died of cancer in 2010, but with his children close and community involvement keeping him going, Jones said he will stick out the rest of his life in Mt. Laurel.
“When you are born in Mt. Laurel, you want to die in Mt. Laurel,” he said.