Bob Jones might have been the closest thing to “Mr. Auburn” as there could be.
It took Jones being placed on hospice in January for him to step down as Auburn’s athletic director — a position he had held for 22 years, though he had been a part of the school for 36 years.
And knowing pancreatic cancer would eventually take his life, Jones still made it to Auburn High School wrestling matches and basketball games, and went to the Tacoma Dome to watch the Trojans compete at state wrestling championships.
Jones died Sunday morning at 60 years old.
Jones’ eldest son, Kyle, is the wrestling coach at Auburn Riverside and his other son, Eric, is an assistant coach.
“He’s kind of Mr. Auburn,” Kyle Jones said Sunday afternoon. “Everyone knows my dad. I learned from a young age growing up that if you needed something or if something had to get done, people were going to Bob Jones.”
Even before Jones’ death, the school had planned to dedicate the gymnasium in his name during an assembly scheduled for Friday, despite the school district holding a policy against renaming structures after people.
The family is still working on a date for a ceremony celebrating the life of Jones, who is survived by his wife, Sue, daughter Taryn and sons Kyle and Eric.
Jones began working at Auburn in 1981 as an assistant football coach before taking over the helm of the program in 1990, which he held until handing the position off to current coach Gordon Elliott in 2002.
Jones was an athletic director, coach and science teacher — but also an Auburn fixture. The school awards a Bob Jones Service Scholarship to a graduating Auburn High student who “has served their community, school and beyond.”
“He pretty much bleeds green and gold,” Kyle Jones said. “Everything he did was, ‘How can I make Auburn High better?’ ”
But Auburn High was certainly not the boundary of his influence. Sumner High School held a two-night talent show two years ago with proceeds to benefit Jones’ battle against cancer.
He was diagnosed in October 2013, but after undergoing chemotherapy and surgery the tumor was removed and he continued working.
But the tumor returned in November 2015 and Jones restarted his battle.
And Jones still kept up-to-date on Auburn athletics. He traveled to Auburn High on Jan. 25 to be torn between allegiances, with his longtime school’s wrestling team losing to his sons, who coached Auburn Riverside to the Ravens’ first league wrestling title. His three children all graduated from Auburn Riverside.
“I think he was the biggest influence on me becoming a coach,” Kyle Jones said. “Being a coach’s kid and being around him and seeing all the guys come back to see him because he was their coach and seeing how much fun he had throughout all the years doing it. I think that was a huge part of me getting into coaching.”
Jones graduated from Highline High School, where he wrestled and played football. He also played sports at Grays Harbor Community College and Western Washington University.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677