When Ann Jones was born in 1915, women did not even have the right to vote. When she turns 100 this weekend, Mrs. Jones and her family will celebrate her century of adventure, which included solo worldwide travel and seven years of post-WWII service in Japan.
Born in Red Wing, Minnesota on April 18, 1915, Ann Jones was raised in St. Paul near Hamline University. Although it was unusual for women to seek higher education, she told her mother early on that she wanted to attend college.
“She got her degree at Hamline and decided she wanted to see the world,” says her daughter, Yvonne Jones. “She started by buying a one-way ticket to Texas and got a job at Walgreens there. With her first paycheck she bought herself a ring, which she still has today.”
Ann then moved to Georgia, helping to teach pilots to “fly blind” during WWII. Determined to see other countries, she joined the civil service. Because she had a college degree, she was given high security clearance and was a secretary for Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Japan after the war.
While there, she hiked Mt. Fuji and volunteered at orphanages, where she was able to arrange for schooling for several disadvantaged children.
She worked in military intelligence in Austria before moving to London to become a teacher. While hiking there she met the man who was to become her husband, a British gentleman named Winston Jones. When Ann was in her 40s the couple adopted a boy (Colin, who now lives in Arizona) and a girl (Yvonne).
The Joneses decided to move to San Francisco when the children were six and seven years old. Ann had passed through the City once during her travels and liked what she saw. The family’s introduction to America was living in the Haight-Ashbury district in 1966.
Yvonne explains, “As a child in Minnesota, she had stood in a corn field one day and stretched out her arms, saying, ‘One day I will have mountains on one side and the ocean on the other,’ so it’s no surprise that she ended up in California.”
Eventually the Joneses relocated to the East Bay. Ann Jones taught at Lockwood Elementary School in Oakland, returning to school for her Master’s in Education in her early 60s. After retirement she continued volunteer work at several locations, including Strobridge Elementary School here in Castro Valley.
Mrs. Jones has always been active. She walked three to five miles daily well into her 90s, and traveled every time she got the chance. Though her husband passed away in 2001, she continued joining in new activities, including learning American Sign Language and bocce ball.
“She always said, ‘You can’t wait around for other people to do things.’ She always took advantage of every opportunity that came her way,” says Yvonne.
A quiet and easygoing woman, Ann Jones loves to laugh and has a ready smile. She still eagerly participates in activities offered at the retirement facility in Castro Valley where she now resides, and agrees that a key to her long life was always being ready for the next adventure.
“Sounds pretty sensible to me,” she says with a smile.
Ann Jones has been an inspiration to her college-age granddaughter Adriana, who recently returned from studying overseas. Adriana recalled her grandmother’s fondness for the WWII cartoon figure “Kilroy Was Here,” so she had a tiny version of the cartoon tattooed on her ankle before she left.
“It’s like she’s traveling with me wherever I go,” says Adriana. “My grandmother is still curious and extremely independent. She’s a great role model who taught me not to be afraid of failure, and that as women we have to pursue our dreams.”
Ann’s century of adventure will be celebrated Saturday with her favorite treat, an ice cream party. Joining her will be her children and three grandchildren, family members, and many friends.