Born: April 6, 1937; In Mobridge, SD
Died: May 20, 2014; In Woodstock, IL
BJ Jones died on May 20, 2014, in her home at Woodstock, Illinois of natural causes.
BJ was born on April 6, 1937, to Ward and Ruth (Kirk) Coull, in Mobridge, South Dakota; but not before a neighbor with a team of horses helped Ward get out of their valley and traverse several miles of mud to reach a gravel road on which to go another 35 miles to the hospital.
BJ's family lived on a farm five miles from Glencross, and ten miles from Timber Lake, a larger town with a population of about 600. Because there were no men available to work on the farm at the end of World War II, BJ was working with livestock and in the fields by the age of six. She earned a penny a shock for shocking oat bundles. During harvest season, it was exciting to have a crew on the farm for several days to thrash wheat, oats and barley, and BJ enjoyed helping Ruth take mid-afternoon lunch to the men in the fields.
For all but three years of elementary school, BJ was home-schooled by her mother, who had been a rural school teacher for 11 years. In the spring, when she was eight, BJ was privileged to act as mid-wife to sows who were giving birth-for which she received a piglet of her own, and out of which grew her love of pigs.
The family moved into Timber Lake when BJ started high school. Each summer she and her father would go out to the farm every Monday morning, working the farm until Saturday evening. She mowed and raked alfalfa and prairie hay, but spent the majority of her time in the house, cooking and baking adeptly on a three-burner kerosene stove, and completing sewing projects for the state fair.
After graduating from high school in 1954, BJ attended Sioux Falls College, then went to Andover Newton Theological School, graduating with her Master's degree in Divinity in 1963. While in seminary, she met David Jones. They married in 1961, were ordained as ministers in 1963, and subsequently worked for churches in Massachusetts, Ohio, Wisconsin and Illinois. They became the parents of four children.
BJ had entered the ministry with the intention of engaging in social work, and took a job with the Illinois Dept. of Public Aid in 1969. She and the children moved to Woodstock in 1970. She soon became a member of the board of the local Head Start program, on which she served for nearly ten years. During her 15-year tenure at Public Aid, the activity that meant the most to her was the establishment of a program for the benefit of abused women, which eventually became the Turning Point organization. She helped to develop training programs, worked as an advocate, crisis-line member and safe home provider, and was the first president of the board.
While BJ was working at Public Aid, a few people learned that she was an ordained minister and asked her to perform their weddings. She enjoyed being a part of the happiest day of people's lives and left Public Aid to work full time officiating at weddings. This was a vocation that continued from 1984 until her death.
BJ had no previous gardening experience but became an avid gardener after moving to Woodstock. Gardening became her great passion, and she eventually became a member of the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program, where she developed deep friendships that lasted for the rest of her life.
BJ traveled extensively with her son while he was working overseas and visited more than 30 countries during that time. She also became a prolific cookie baker, churning out nearly 10,000 cookies for friends and family each annual holiday season.
Survivors include her daughter, Lezley of San Jose, California; and son, Ward; daughter-in-law, Salta; and granddaughter, Aizhana of Maple Valley, Washington, who miss her dearly.
She was preceded in death by an infant son, Wayne Evan; and a daughter, Bryn Ellen, at the age of eight, in 1973.
Friends are invited to a remembrance and celebration of BJ's life on Saturday, May 31, 2014, at her home in Woodstock from 2:00 until finished. For information or directions, call 815-338-6352.
Published in the Northwest Herald on May 25, 2014