SIS auditorium filled for Jones memorial ceremony

Tribute paid to ‘a steward of the land’

The service of celebration and tribute to Philip Hubbell Jones, Jr., the patriarch of Jones Family Farms, honored a man known for important accomplishments and for small loving acts that profoundly influenced his children, grandchildren and friends.

Family and community members, friends and dignitaries filled the Shelton Intermediate School auditorium on Nov. 14, honoring Jones, who died in August at age 96, and who spent many years running the farm that was founded in the 1850’s by his great grandfather, Philip James Jones.

The farm’s founder coined a credo that Philip H. Jones embodied, his family said.

“Be good to the land and the land will be good to you” was a focal point of the memorial service.

Jones’ cousin, the Reverend Elliot Fair Jr., was one of many who spoke about Jones at the service.

“He taught me how to live,” said Fair, and he recalled visiting the farm often as a child, riding the hay wagon and learning farming from his older cousin.

“He taught me to stomp down the hay,” Fair said, and to drive the farm truck, clean up the barn troughs, pick up rocks and help prune blue spruce trees.

“He always gave me very good jobs,” Fair said, and the tasks were often punctuated with fun and humor.

A steward of the land

Jones “was a steward of the land,” said the Rev. Lucille Fritz, pastor of the Huntington Congregational Church. “We remember the twinkling of those blue eyes.”

His stewardship “set the bar high,” said Terry Jones, Philip’s son, and, as the oldest male operating the farm, is the current patriarch.

He said an old adage sums up his father’s life: “You leave the woodpile a little higher than you found it.”

A pioneer in the Christmas tree growing industry, Jones started the Christmas Tree farm in the 1940’s and with his wife Elisabeth created a tradition for families to harvest their own trees at the Jones Tree Farm. His son, grandson and their spouses added new agricultural endeavors, including a winery, and strawberry and blueberry and pumpkin picking, which evolved into the Jones Family Farms.

Remembering Philip H. Jones

Reminiscences about Jones were interspersed with music, Bible readings and photo slideshows.

There were musical selections performed by the Youth Connection under the direction of Fran Scarpa, and Joan Baez’s song, “Forever Young” accompanied a photo slideshow of Jones as a child, a young man and in later years.

“My father probably wouldn’t want all this fuss,” Terry Jones said, and would probably rather be out pruning Christmas trees. “For him it was all about nurturing seeds to grow into beautiful trees.”

Philip Jones developed a “fond friendship” with Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, Jones said, and Lauretti shared his memories, which included attending Easter Sunrise Services at the farm each year.

“The walk to the hill with Philip was most enlightening,” Lauretti said, and Jones’ life reflected the American Dream and a generation that “just did it. They were doers,” he said, and aimed “to leave the planet better than they found it.”

Whether Jones was serving his state or his community, his involvement was total.

“It was 110%,” Lauretti said. “Philip, thanks for being who you were. The world is a better place because of you.”

Jones also became fast friends with Governor Dannel P. Malloy, who started visiting the farm several years ago to learn about about Connecticut agricultural policy.

“It’s a rare 96 year-old to have a funeral attended by so many friends,” Malloy said, addressing those attending the memorial service.

Malloy said he and his family drove to the Jones Farm “every year to cut a tree.”

He recalled Jones’ zest and spirit.

“He was just a force,” Malloy said, and recalled that Jones served on the Plumb Memorial Library board.

That was just one of the volunteer positions where he often served in leadership capacities.

Jones served two terms (1948-1952) in the Connecticut House of Representatives, and he volunteered Connecticut’s 4-H program, Scouting, Shelton’s Land Conservation Trust, the state Forest and Park Association, the Fairfield County Farm Bureau, the Connecticut Christmas Tree Grower’s Association and the National Christmas Tree Association.

He also volunteered at the Institute for American Indian studies in Washington, CT, the Shelton History Center, the Monroe Historical Society and the Huntington Congregational Church.

“This is a guy who grabbed life and wouldn’t let it go,” Malloy said. “God’s gift is a farmer. Farmers remind us we need good roots. We need to have a purpose. We need to be regenerated season after season. That’s what Philip did for all of us.”

Even Abraham Lincoln, portrayed by an impersonator, paid tribute to Jones at the service.

“I have no doubt he would have been a valuable addition to my cabinet,” Lincoln said, and there were similarities in upbringing and personality.

Both men were “raised to farm work and walked a considerable distance to go to school,” he said. “Both swapped stories and told jokes.”

Philip Jones’ son Daniel, a resident of Taos, NM, shared heartfelt remembrances.

“Dad and I were connected in a shared joy of adventure travel,” he said, and he would show photographs of the Western landscape to his father.

Dan came out as a gay man 40 years ago, and gave examples of his father’s support and love.

Philip told his son that “he didn’t know anything about homosexuality, and could I get him a book about it,” Dan Jones said.

In an Associated Press interview that ran in a local newspaper, his father was quoted as saying, “There is so much misunderstanding of the gay world. My philosophy is to try and understand any individual for what he or she is.”

Philip loved to make newspaper hats for his grandchildren, and to fly paper airplanes into mousetraps.

Later in life, when he became frustrated with the limitations of his age, his daughter would tell him, “You have a 45-year old brain in a 90-year-old body.”

Jones ended her talk imagining that her father’s loved ones would greet him in heaven the same way her father greeted her when she came home.

“Welcome home, Philip,” they would say. “What took you so long? We’re here waiting for you. Welcome home.”