Huntsville, AL 35805-4725
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Ira P. JONES Obituary

JONES, Ira P.A dedicated example of the "greatest generation", passed away Saturday in Huntsville. He was 88 years old. Born in Nashville, TN, Mr. Jones came of age under the cloud of war - starting classes in Mechanical Engineering at Vanderbilt University, three days after graduating from Hillsboro High School in 1942. As so many others, his studies were interrupted when he was inducted into the US Army in June 1944. During the military actions following the Battle of the Bulge, Jones was shot twice (in the foot and leg) after a cat-and-mouse game with a German Sniper. This was his first (and last) day in combat, and the story was chronicled by the survivor himself as "The Short War of Ira P. Jones" in Through the Eyes of Courage, a 2010 compilation of the WWII experiences of North Alabama veterans. After the war, Mr. Jones finished his Bachelor's degree at Vanderbilt, and embarked on his career as an Aeronautical Research Scientist at NACA's Langley Field Spin Tunnel in Virginia. Following time out to complete a Master's degree in Aeronautical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, Jones reported to Edwards Air Force Base in 1951 (then known as Muroc Field) to work as a Flight Test Engineer researching supersonic aircraft (including the X-1 and X-4 rockets). After working in Tullahoma, TN (where he helped develop a new Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel and tested the Mercury re-entry capsule), Mr. Jones sensed the opportunity of a life time and came to Huntsville. In 1959, he secured employment here with the Army ABMA Missile program (then directed by one Dr. Wernher Von Braun) in advance of the foundation of NASA. The following year, he transferred with the ABMA team to become a charter employee of the new NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. During almost thirty years in the Structures & Dynamics Lab at Marshall, Mr. Jones worked in the areas of aerothermal flight instrumentation, and laser-doppler remote sensing systems, for the Mercury, Saturn I, Saturn V, Apollo, and Space Shuttle programs. For a NASA Engineer, Mr. Jones had very wide interests, and seemed to be as passionate about old houses, antiques, and oriental carpets (and therefore History itself) as the fields of science and technology, in which he made his occupation. Consequently, he was an active member of the Historic Huntsville Foundation for many years. Other strong civic commitments were the Kiwanis Club, which made him a George F. Hixson Fellow for this service to the Builder's Club (among other groups). He was also a decades-long member of Huntsville's First Presbyterian Church where he served as Elder. In 1984, nearing retirement, Jones found some culmination for his many passions by moving to Quietdale Plantation - the 1858 House of the High Sheriff of Madison County (listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Huntsville Tour of Homes). Here, he and his wife Billie shared home and hospitality with friends, family and church members (as well as maintaining a giant hundred-year old field of daffodils). It was here Mr. Jones lived until the end. Ira Jones will be remembered as an open, loving, and warm, husband, father, and friend - always ready with a smile, a laugh, and a story. Survivors include wife, Billie Luttrell Jones; children, Stokes Jones and wife, Anne-Marie Timberlake Jones of Atlanta, GA, Gina Jones Parker and husband, Lt. Col. Dennis Parker of Oakton, VA, Dinah S. Williams of Madison, Don L. Byrd and wife Patty of Wilmington, NC, and Christian Byrd of Atlanta GA; grandchildren, Chase, Holden, Hope, Lauren, Tristan, Garet and Mason. Visitation will be from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church, Gideon Blackburn House. The funeral service will follow at 11 a.m. in the Church sanctuary, with the Rev. Dr. Mark Mueller officiating. Burial will be at Maple Hill Cemetery immediately following the service. Memorials may be made to the First Presbyterian Church Mission Fund. LAUGHLIN SERVICE FUNERAL HOME, INC., (256) 534-2471.
Published in The Tennessean on Feb. 12, 2013
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