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Rev. Dr. David P. Jones believed in the goodness of everyone and unceasing service to others.
Jones, the associate pastor of Kenilworth’s Church of the Holy Comforter and chaplain of the Evanston, Wilmette and Winnetka Fire Departments along with the Evanston Police Departments, passed away Feb. 11 after battling pancreatic cancer.
A celebration of his life was held at the Church of the Holy Comforter with an overflow crowd, Friday, Feb. 21 that included full fire department honors by the first responders from the fire and police departments he served.
Friends and family gathered from throughout the Untied States — from New Hampshire to Colorado for the service.
A bugler from the Chicago [Police] Pipe Band led the procession into the church. Jones’ favorite phrase was, “I love you.” He extended the greeting that to everyone he met.
It seemed fitting the celebration of his life opened with a recording about the different kinds of love one can encounter in life and pass on to others from one of Fred Rogers’ TV shows, “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”
Jones met Fred Rogers when he lived in Pittsburgh. The two became close friends. Jones said Fred Rogers inspired him.
Jones’ warmth, wit, acceptance, caring, support and help for others were among his many qualities that were repeated throughout the celebration.
“David showed his love for not just members of our congregation but everyone he met,” said Rev. Dr. Jason I. Parkin, rector of Church of the Holy Comforter and celebrant. “He was always very faithful in his work with first responders. He relished his role as chaplain for the fire and police departments and the opportunity it gave him to care for those who care for others. Now people are showing their love for him.”
“Anybody who met David Jones knew what a wonderful guy he was,” said Robert Brill, Wilmette Deputy Fire Chief. “You could discuss anything with him. I am very proud to have been able to call him a friend. He was a genuine man.”
Jones is said to have planned his funeral with strict details about what he wanted in the service — hymns, readings and those who would eulogize him.
One was Steve Duprey, a long-time friend from his days living in New Hampshire where he served at St. Paul’s Church in Concord.
Several of Duprey’s comments brought laughter from the congregation.
“He gave us his love,” Duprey said. “He had a gift of being an exceptional preacher and minister. He showed how to take words from the gospel readings of the day and translate them into contemporary lives. He was concerned about homelessness and served outside in soup kitchens in the dead of winter, was concerned about food insecurity and became a hospice volunteer.”
Duprey continued that Jones became friends with members of the New Hampshire State Senate from 1995-2000.
“David served as chaplain and was beloved by both political parties,” he continued. “He once said, ‘In this messy and sometimes heated business of governing, struggle to treat one another and us, with gentleness, respect and dignity for how effective you are at that will determine your legacy as much and probably more, as how you vote here.’”
Jones also asked Evanston Fire Chief Brian Scott to speak at his funeral.
“David always dreamed of being a firefigher,” Scott sad. “We called him brother. The photo of him with his fire hat on is so perfect. His impact among us was great. He had the heart of a firefighter, a first responder. David was the kindest, most caring person I know. He would tell us things to remember. One was something his friend, Mr. Rogers said, ‘Life is for service and we exist to serve.’ That is the mission statement of every fire department. He used to say that the ‘good guys show up but the hardest part of being a good guy is showing up.’ He always showed up for us, was supportive in so many ways. David did common things extraordinarily well. We loved him, trusted him. We now have one more angel on our shoulders, one who loves Mr. Rogers and us. Our lives are better for having known David!”
After the eulogies, Rev. Dr. Robert De Wetter talked about how linked in the spirit of love everyone was, as Jones would have wanted. He then showed the congregation a, signed red trolley, similar to one Fred Rogers used on his TV show.
“Mr. Rogers sent this trolley to David reminding him of their friendship and love and to spread love in whatever neighborhood he goes and into the lives of everyone he encounters,” De Wetter said.
After the liturgy, a private internment ceremony followed in the church’s Columbarium Cloister. There, Jones received the full traditional fireman’s honors — the reading of the Fireman’s prayer followed by the ringing of the bell three times signaling the end of his “shift.”
Jones was born March 8, 1949, in St. Louis, Missouri.
While he dreamed about becoming a fireman, Jones answered a call to the ministry.
He received a Master of Divinity from Philadelphia Theological Seminary and a doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary. He also attended the Loyola University of Chicago Rome Center.
He served in Episcopal churches in several Pennsylvania cities, in Concord, New Hampshire and moved to Evanston in 2007 where he served as interim priest at various Episcopal churches in the Chicago Diocese. They included churches in Highland Park, Park Ridge, Northbrook, Deerfield and Antioch.
Jones was president of the board at St. Leonard’s Ministry, Chicago and served with other ministries.
He is survived by his wife, Heath Howe, Evanston; his daughters, Heidi Crumrine and her husband Tom, Concord, NH; Becky Bennard and her husband, Jeff, Richamond, RI; his bonus children, Sophie and Eli Civetta, Evanston; his brother, Jay Jones and wife Patsy, Minneapolis, MN and five grandchildren-Amelia, Zoe and Violet Crumrine and Aria and Finnegan Parker Bennard and many nieces and nephews.
Memorial gifts in Jones’ honor may be made to: Evanston Police and Fire Foundation, 1451 Elmwood Ave., Evanston, IL 60201; St. Leonard’s Ministry, 48 N. Hoyne Ave., Chicago, IL 60612; Church of the Holy Comforter, 222 Kenilworth Ave., Kenilworth, IL 60043.