Father Jones remembered with tears, laughter

Concelebrating with Father James Taranto were priests from all over the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph at the Funeral Mass for their brother priest, Chuck Jones, at St. Mark the Evangelist Church, Independence, Dec. 13. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

INDEPENDENCE — Having spent his whole priesthood serving parishes, colleges and institutions in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Father Charles F. Jones, “Chuck” or “Pops” to friends and family, chose to retire right in the center of it, in Independence. When he died Dec. 9, his family and friends planned the Mass of Christian Burial at his home parish, St. Mark the Evangelist Church.

Scores of people, young and old, came to pay their last respects and pray for the priest, and many stayed for the Mass at noon Dec. 13. The Mass was celebrated by Father James Taranto, concelebrated by many diocesan priests, including Fathers Ken Riley, Charles Rowe, Andrew Mattingly, Terry Bruce, Sean McCaffrey, Gerry Waris, Adam Johnson, Dave Holloway, Steve Cook, Joe Powers, Chuck Tobin Richard Rocha, Steve Hansen, Ken Criqui, Joe Matt, Ernie Davis, Dave Holloway and Monsignors Brad Offutt and Bob Gregory among them.

Just weeks earlier, 87-year-old Fr. Chuck had been honored to be part of a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony at Westport Commons co-working facility located in the old Westport Middle School building on 39th Street in Kansas City.

When the building’s new owners and the architect toured the old school, they discovered something remarkable on the fourth floor. They had already learned that for a number of years in the mid-20th century, the building had been home to Kansas City Junior College, now part of the Metropolitan Community Colleges. They found a mural, painted in 1948, divided into 15 sections, each depicting the history of Kansas City from the mid-18th to the mid-20th centuries, and each signed by its artist. Fascinated, the architect, Bob Berkebile of BNIM, started researching the names of the artists, and found only one, Father Charles F. Jones (Catholic Key, Oct. 24).

Father Charles Jones

Filled with memories to share, as they wandered through the building, Father Chuck told his caregiver, Tonya Huey, story after story of his days in junior college, pointed out his favorite spots on each floor and in a special ceremony, carefully mounted a step ladder, supported by many hands, and again signed the section of the newly restored mural he had painted almost 70 years ago.

Charles Frederick Jones was born in Kansas City on April 26, 1930, one of three children born to Charles F. and Marcella Jones-Thomas. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at Kansas City Junior College. He was one of 15 student artists chosen by the art teacher, Mary Moulton, to paint a mural around the top of the art classroom’s walls, depicting Kansas City history from the 18th century, the 1840s and “today,” the 1940s.

Following his graduation in 1950, Chuck Jones joined the Army, proudly serving his country in Okinawa, Japan. During his service there, he converted to Catholicism.

Tonya Huey, his friend and caregiver, said he was in Okinawa during the Korean war. “He was baptized there and that is why he said that time meant so much to him. He always planned on revisiting one day but was not able to by the time he retired because of his health. … He told me stories about how they used palm leaves to spell ‘Merry Christmas’ one year and to decorate their Quonset huts. He told me stories about how rats were always running around in their huts and how he used his mosquito netting to keep them from getting on him while he slept.”
Upon returning to the States, Chuck enrolled at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and completed his AB degree, which today would be a Bachelor of Visual Arts.

Chuck Jones and Tom Wiederholt enrolled at Conception Seminary College in June 1957, and being “delayed vocations,” were required to earn a Bachelor of Scholastic Philosophy before entering four years of Theology. As neither had taken any formal courses in Latin, that was the first requirement. As Father Wiederholt recalled in his homily for the funeral Mass, the two young men lived together in a summer cottage on Conception’s campus, “and we sat around saying, ‘sum, es, est, sumus, estis, sunt’, over and over for about 2 ½ months.” In other words, the conjugation of “to be.”

They had met on their first day at Conception, and remained friends for 60 years. They, along with another seminarian, Ken Criqui, were ordained on May 25, 1963. Father Jones was ordained at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Kansas City.

Fr. Chuck served as assistant pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Kansas City; Cathedral of St. Joseph, St. Joseph; St. Therese, Parkville; St. Gregory Barbarigo, Maryville and was in residence at St. Peter’s, Kansas City. He served as pastor of St. Cyril’s, Sugar Creek; 1983, St. Mary, St. Joseph, 1987; St. Mary, Independence, 1992, and as Chaplain at several area colleges, hospitals, and at the old Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration.

Father Wiederholt characterized their long friendship as one of “all the joys, confusions, disappointments and yes, wonders. Chuck would thoroughly examine and comment on a stick he found. He was fixated on the wonders of creation.” He also said his friend was “extremely proud to share the priesthood” with all the priests he met.

As the Mass drew to a close, Father Taranto approached the casket, placed his hands upon it and very solemnly said, “I am here for three reasons. One, I don’t want Chuck to haunt me (laughter from the pews). Two, he was ornery and cantankerous, he tolerated bishops and Republicans (more laughter), and he was my friend.” He later added the third reason, as Father Jones had prayed for people throughout his priesthood, now it was the turn of those attending the Mass of Christian Burial to pray for him.

Tonya Huey came forward to inscribe Fr. Jones’ name in the parish Book of Remembrance along with the date of his entrance into eternal life. Through the Book of Remembrance, St. Mark’s parish strives to remember those who have gone before and celebrate their communion with all the beloved dead.

Father Taranto incensed Father Jones’ body within the casket to honor the temple of the Holy Spirit it had become at baptism and to signify prayers for him rising to God.

Two sharply dressed young soldiers marched down the center aisle to the casket, placed a military class U.S. flag on it and stood at attention for several moments. They then began to formally unfold the flag, and held it completely open while a three-gun salute sounded out in the parking lot.

When the salute ended, the soldiers refolded the flag which was presented with a statement of gratitude for Fr. Jones’ service, to Joyce Glynn, his sister.

The Mass ended with the hymn, On Eagles’ Wings. Burial at Forest Hills Cemetery in Kansas City was on Dec. 15. Father Jones was preceded in death by his parents and a sister Mary Lou. He is survived by his sister Joyce, Tonya Huey and nieces and nephews. Memorial contributions may be made to Bishop Sullivan Center, 6435 Truman Road, Kansas City, MO 64126.

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April 26, 2018
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