Jones, 80, died after his car hit a tree in Mendota Heights on Thanksgiving evening.
Jones grew up in Anoka and attended Minnehaha Academy until age 18, when he volunteered for the U.S. Army. The Korean War ended before his infantry training did, so he joined the Minnesota National Guard.
He was a letter carrier for four years before becoming a full-time Minneapolis firefighter in 1960. He was a captain when he retired in 1983 at age 50 so that he could spend more time playing violin and viola, said his daughter Teresa Jones, of Isanti County.
At one point he was part of several community orchestras in the Twin Cities area, including the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, where he played for 24 years.
“He liked Mozart. His favorite was anything classical,” said Lori Sweazy, 60, who played violin next to Jones in the 85-member Bloomington group until he retired in 2007. She said he gave her a bow and two of his ”very nice” violins.
Jones also was part of a string quartet that played at the governor’s residence in St. Paul during Christmas holiday tours, she said.
Some of the quartet members will play at his funeral at Eastside Bible Baptist Church, 6215 Oliver Av. S., Richfield, at 2 p.m. Friday. He attended the church and often played violin at Sunday services.
Teresa Jones said her dad, who called himself a conservative, loved politics and twice ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Mary Beth Hill met Jones at the Mississippi Valley Chamber Orchestra in 1986. At first, she thought the retired fire captain was a bit bossy, telling her how to play music. “He was honestly trying to be helpful, but I thought I knew what I was doing and didn’t want to hear it,” she said. He asked her out for about a year before she agreed, and they dated ever since, she said.
Hill said Jones got involved in and later became president of the Minnesota Association for Crime Victims.
“He was always looking out for the little guy who might not get his voice heard,” Hill said. That was what motivated him to run for the Legislature in the mid-1980s, she said.
She said that he was proud of his bow and violin making and that once, when he met Itzhak Perlman at a musicians retreat in Colorado, he mentioned to the renowned violinist that he made bows.
After borrowing a bow from Jones and fiddling vigorously, Perlman returned it and said, “This is a good stick,” Hill recalled Jones saying.
Jones told his kids funny tales from his firefighting days, such as busting in a wall to get at a fire and meeting a herd of cockroaches looking for an exit, his daughter Teresa said. She said her father learned to make “dang good chili” as a live-in firefighter at Station 6 and loved family gatherings.
Jones was preceded in death by two children, Kathryn Jones and David H. Jones. In addition to his daughter Teresa, he is survived by four other children, Rose Osterbauer of Minneapolis, Mary Hahn of Richfield, Daniel Jones of Mounds View and Anita Hoaglund of Bloomington; 10 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren, and his longtime partner, Mary Beth Hill.