Bob Jones’ reaction when he learned the city of Auburn was naming a street after him:
Maybe it’s the same reaction the longtime Auburn High School athletic director would have expressed had he been alive to see the school christen its newly renamed Bob Jones Gym.
Eric Jones, read from one of his father’s journal entries — written in some of his final days before dying Sunday morning following a three-and-a-half-year battle with pancreatic cancer — during a celebration of life ceremony attended by hundreds in Bob Jones Gym on Friday.
“They decided to rename the street Bob Jones Way. I am still overwhelmed by this,” Eric read. “What I remember about mayor Nancy Backus announcing this is her reference to doing things the Bob Jones way.
“I like that.”
The crowd laughed and Eric looked up from his podium.
“Of course he did,” he deadpanned.
And because the 60-year-old Jones was becoming hip and learning how to use Twitter before he passed, he ended his journal entries with hashtags. This one ended with #streetnamedforme.
The school district had to create a revision to its policy because it wasn’t going to rename structures after people. The gymnasium is now one of five structures in the district named for someone.
Robert Charles Jones spent 36 years at Auburn High School, including the past 22 as the school’s athletic director. Members of the 1992 Auburn football team he coached to the state semifinals were there Friday. He also coached wrestling and soccer and was a longtime science and health teacher.
But as speakers pointed out, Jones was also an avid rock ’n’ roll fan and loved fast cars — such as his Pontiac GTO and his dad’s Chevy Chevelle.
He also once tackled a streaker at a soccer match into a chain link fence, as Katie Henry explained. She took over for Jones as the school’s athletic director in January when it was learned Jones would need to be placed in hospice care. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2013.
His eldest son, Kyle Jones, wore a dark green collared shirt with a gold tie — Auburn’s school colors — even though it went against the colors of his Auburn Riverside. He’s AR’s wrestling coach and he graduated form there.
Henry’s shirt was purple and gray and read “I (love) Bob Jones.”
Jones was remembers for his many quotes and quirks, but moreso his kind heart and servant leadership.
He had spent his past 21 years heavily involved in Relay for Life and helped raise $1.6 million for cancer patients.
Mathew Kasper played football at Auburn before spending 10 years in prison for robbery. But Jones would continue to visit him and became like a father figure, Kasper said.
“He could have easily written me off,” Kasper said in a phone interview. “But he was like, ‘Well, what’s next? What have you been doing? What’s it like?’ He stuck by me. He was just there for you.”
He learned of Jones’ death while leading a climbing course in Seattle and said he had to step away because he began tearing up.
“One of his last texts to me was: ‘I love what you are doing and what you have done,’ ” Kasper said. “He was so genuine and wants to make everybody better. It was a special thing to be a part of his life.”
Mike Colbrese, the executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, was in attendance Friday. He remembered when Jones was in charge of the state soccer tournament.
“I came down and Bob took me for a tour in like a ’68 Chevy pickup,” Colbrese said. “He was just one of those down-to-earth, honest, fun-loving guys.”
The WIAA had planned to award Jones with the Gareth Giles Award — the association’s highest honor given to those who exemplify great leadership and dedication — Colbrese said. Jones’ family accepted the award for him.
Colbrese said he cried when he learned Jones had died two months after being told he had six months to live.
“There are people that when they call you and tell you something, you listen to,” Colbrese said. “And then there’s the Bob Joneses of the world. When he calls, you really listen.”
Eric Jones read a passage from his father’s journal explaining Bob Jones’ interpretation of the Bob Jones way.
“Say yes. Be humble. Say thank you. Put family first. Put the students first. Ask, ‘How can I help?’ Find the positive. Don’t give bulletin board material, but use it. Live a servant life. Have class. Be enthusiastic. Have fun. And lead, lead, lead — by example or action.
“I know I wasn’t perfect at any of those, but it is what I strived for.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677