A WWII SeaBee Celebrates a First

By: qwerty53

Sep 15 2010

Category: Uncategorized

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Focal Length:22mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D300S

Jeweler, watchmaker and woodworker artisan Frank Jones with his trusty companion, Alexander the Great, aka Allie.

Come September, Frank Jones will celebrate ninety years on this earth.

“And I like this earth just fine,” he said “ but I have had many years of missing my beautiful wife, Norma Jean, who died of cancer in 1980.”

“I often think if I could have somehow given her half the time I had left, I would gladly have done so for us to continue together.” Jones muses.

Jones and Norma Jean met in 1939 in Indianapolis while she was a member of his evangelist father’s church choir.

The couple dated for two years and married on Pearl Harbor Day, 1941.

Jones served thirty-four months in the South Pacific as a Seabee during WWII. He tells of waiting to be shipped out from his base north of Los Angeles and receiving a call from Norma Jean saying that she wanted to come visit.

“I told her it would be difficult to get here, but she was insistent. When she arrived, I used my 12-hour pass to slip out and meet her. We had sixteen days together, staying at the home of my uncle in L.A.”

“They put me in the brig, fined me $105 and sentenced me to 50 days of camp confinement,” Jones recalled. “The confinement was waived, because by that time we were in the biggest coconut grove in the world, Fiji, and Guadalcanal Campaign was imminent.”

“It’s not as if those sixteen days hindered the war effort,” he says. No regrets, just an obviously a special memory of Norma Jean he recalls still.

Jones had an early interest in jewelry and watch making and after the war took a position with Bardach and Grau, Inc., a factory that made emblem rings. His proficiency was evident then and later when he spent a year at the Chicago School of Watchmaking.

The school asked him to remain as an instructor, but his dream was to own his own business.

Some may remember Valley Jewelers in Homewood, where Frank and Norma Jean established their solid reputation in the community. “My wife could remember all the customers and greet them by name and prompt me, because I could never remember names.”

They sold the business in 1976 and retired to enjoy more time at the contemporary home they built on acreage in Helena where Norma Jean especially enjoyed birdwatching and Frank expanded his woodworking and furniture building interests.

Jones’ eye for precision is evident in tables of his design, a highboy, Bombay chest, his prized grandfather clock and his Sam Maloof-style rocking chair, where he spends many hours reading with his cat companion, Allie.

Addendum 9/15/2010:

Frank Jones told me, “My earliest memory is of New York City, then we moved to Long Island. I attended first grade in Blytheville, AR, then we moved to Des Moines, Oklahoma, and Minneapolis and after I graduated high school, Indianapolis.”

Jones’ father, Floyd Jones, was a leading Schubert tenor who performed on Broadway then later became an evangelist, moving his family of four boys frequently from city to city. For this reason, Frank never had a birthday party until a recent 90th celebration in Birmingham given by his daughters Pam Hiam and Beth Missimer, which I was privileged to attend.


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