Roger Lee Jones
Idaho lost its quintessential promoter when Roger Lee Jones passed away at his home in the vineyards of Carmela Winery in Glenns Ferry, on Monday, August 19, 2013. He was 75. He is remembered as a father of four, grandfather of eight, businessman, entrepreneur, Idaho potato and lottery champion, Idaho Vandal standard bearer and vintner.
Born the second of three sons to Rolland D. Jones, then a potato inspector, and Dorothy (McQuain) Jones in Rupert, on April 22, 1938. Roger grew up enjoying a youth of hunting, fishing, skiing, golfing and helping his father with farming and doing jobs around the family owned fresh packing plant, Rolland Jones Potatoes.
After graduating in the first class of Minico High School in 1956 he attended the University of Idaho in Moscow, where he studied marketing and economics, was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and discovered his two most enduring loves, his wife and the University of Idaho.
On a fateful Christmas ski trip with some fraternity brothers he meet Nancy Joy Grange a Boise Junior College Homecoming Queen at a dance party in Sun Valley. By the next fall Nancy was also attending UI.
Roger considered it his greatest luck that Nancy agreed to be his wife and they married on August 27, 1960.
Roger and Nancy returned to Rupert where Roger worked for his father in the fresh plant as a salesman. Soon they were joined by sons and daughters; Douglas, Jana, (Roger) Kristian and Audrianna.
In 1966 Roger and his father built the one of Idaho's first dehydrated potato plants in Rupert, Magic Valley Foods. Roger was the salesman who travelled the nation looking for customers. He worked with food scientists at Procter & Gamble which resulted in the development of Pringles Potato Chips.
Roger's children remember before the prefabbed chips were available Roger offering visitors a sample where a can would be produced, a single chip was given and the lid put back and the can returned to the cupboard.
In 1974, after the death of his father, Roger became the president of the potato companies.
Soon he built a second plant, Magic West, in Glenns Ferry, to supply the flake needs of P&G and Yamazaki Nabisco, a Japanese company who had a similar prefab potato chip. Roger sold flakes to customers all over the world which allowed him and Nancy to travel extensively throughout six of the seven continents.
Throughout his life he owned and operated a number of other companies throughout Idaho including Pomerelle Ski Area, Village Sports Den in Burley, The News Journal of Rupert, Quality Produce in Boise, RJ Trucking, Magic Miles an import-export company, and many thousand acres of crops throughout Idaho.
Roger gave much back to all the communities and industries he belonged to. Always the fan, Roger became president of the Idaho Vandal Boosters in1991-92 and was University of Idaho Alumni Association President in 1976-77. During the 1980s and 1990s no one attended more Vandal Football games than Roger and Nancy.
Roger was one of longest serving members on the Idaho Potato Commission from 1980 to 1988 and served as chairman from the 1983-84 and was instrumental in opening up the Pacific Rim market to Idaho potato products.
Nationally he served on the board of the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association from 1990 to 1994 and was Chairman of the Board in 1993-94.
Roger also served on the Idaho Lottery Commission since March of 1995 and had been Chairman since November of 2003.
In 1996 Roger and Nancy bought Carmela Winery and Golf Course in Glenns Ferry. Within a few years they had increased the production in 2002 of winery fivefold.
After Nancy's death in 2001 Roger sold the potato companies and concentrated on the winery.
Roger was preceded in death by his parents and his wife. Survivors include brothers Marlin of McCall, Ron (Tammy) Jones of Rupert, son Douglas (Elizabeth) Jones of Rupert, daughter Jana Jones of Boise, son Roger K. (Fara) Jones of Brooklyn, New York, daughter Audrianna (Kelvin) Gurr of Portland, Oregon and eight grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life/Memorial will be held Monday August 26, 2013, at the Methodist Church, 605 H Street, Rupert at 10:00 A.M. Another event will also be held at Carmela Winery at 4:00 P.M. on the same day. Please wear your Vandal colors if you have them. In lieu of flowers the family asks for donations to the Roger Lee and Nancy Joy Jones scholarship fund at give by mail to University of Idaho Foundation, 875 Perimeter Dr., Moscow, ID 83844.
Published in Idaho Statesman from Aug. 22 to Aug. 23, 2013