Cary "Ben" Benjamin Jones
May 4, 1919 – June 23, 2020
C. Ben Jones, 101, passed away peacefully at his home and was received into the loving arms of God on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.
He was born on May 4, 1919 in Apex, North Carolina to Bessie Sprinkle Jones and Cary Braxton Jones at their family home. His father passed away from influenza in 1923, leaving behind a young wife, two daughters, and Ben. As “man” of the house, Ben took his role seriously and with great responsibility, with memories of helping his dad guiding him along the way. His mother was a school teacher and principal, and his family raised cotton, oats, soybeans, wheat, poultry, cattle and hogs. He vividly remembered everyone piling into the car and driving to Raleigh to sell their goods. He plowed his first field at the age of 6, not having much of a clue what he was doing, but his grandmother told him that “cain’t was a coward too afraid to try.” From an early age, his commitment to a job well done and the fortitude to accept and overcome challenges was engrained in him for life. He attended Fairview School for 7 years, and graduated from Apex High School in 1937, where he was a star athlete and boxed, ran track, and played football, baseball, and basketball. He was student body president, football co-captain, baseball captain, and voted most popular fellow in his senior class.
Following high school, he enrolled in North Carolina State College where he studied Textile Management, lettered in football and baseball, and was nicknamed “Jackrabbit Jones” for his speed and agility. He participated in the Flying Cadet program and Sigma Nu fraternity.
In the fall of 1940, he went to visit his older sister, Frances, in El Centro, CA, and took a job there with Bank of America and helped his brother-in-law on the weekends with vegetable farming and cattle feeding. Ben came to love all facets of the cattle industry and spent time in San Diego learning the meat packing end of the business. This all came to a screeching halt with the tragic bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Without hesitation he went to the Military Recruiting Office in San Diego, CA and committed to serve his Country.
On January 20, 1942 he was sworn in to the Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet at Fort Rosecrans in San Diego, CA. During Primary Flight School in Hemet, CA he found that flying upside down in an open cockpit was quite an experience! He much preferred Basic Flight School in Bakersfield, CA with enclosed cockpits. His Advanced training was at Luke Field, Arizona, where he earned his pilot wings and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. He was sent to Philadelphia, PA and Norfolk, VA for training in Curtiss P-40 Warhawks for overseas combat. He was assigned to the 316th Fighter Squadron (“Hell’s Belles”) of the 324th Flight Group.
Prior to going overseas, he married his sweetheart, Agnes Marie Fitzgerald of Princeton, NC, on November 5, 1942. His service as a fighter pilot during World War II took him to the Mediterranean, specifically North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, and included 22 combat missions with the British and 80 with the Americans. He remained overseas through the initial invasion of Anzio, Italy in January of 1944.
Upon his return to the United States, Captain Jones was stationed at Luke Field where he was an Engineering Officer and Test Pilot for whatever aircraft the Army Air Corps had to fly at the time including P-51 Mustangs, P-47’s, P-38’s, B-25’s, and the workhorse C-45. From Luke Field he went to Connecticut continuing his engineering and test pilot work. Ben was honorably discharged from the Army Air Corps on January 18, 1946, a recipient of various Air Medals and Distinguished Unit Badges.
The family, which now included a baby girl named Susan, moved to El Centro, CA, where he and his brother-in-law, John Jackson, planned and built a beef processing plant, Anza Meat Packing Company. During construction of the plant, Ben owned and operated IV Meat Company, which held meat lockers for cold storage. To make ends meet, he also drove a sugar beet truck at night during harvest time. Once completed, the Anza Meat Packing Company was written up in Meat Magazine as the most modern meat packing plant ever built. Ben served as President and Manager of Anza for 25 years and partnered in a cattle feeding business.
He coached youth sports and served on the boards of various organizations including the El Centro Chamber of Commerce, Airport Planning Board of California, and National Meat Packers Association. He held leadership positions in the First United Methodist Church of El Centro and was a charter member of the Stockmen’s Club of Imperial Valley. He planned and coordinated the first El Centro Chamber of Commerce Fly-In which included aircraft of many types and vintages. He was honored with a Gold Card Life Membership to the California Midwinter Fair for his countless hours given to the 4-H and FFA animal projects. He was active for many years in the Military Reserves and was proud to support the Naval Air Station in El Centro, CA – the winter training home of the Blue Angels. He was a caring and fair boss who is respected and fondly remembered by his employees and their families. In the late 1950’s he was a campaign manager for a Congressman, and also dined with special friends including Women’s Aviation Pioneer Jacqueline Cochran Odlum (the first woman to break the sound barrier), Chuck Yeager (the first pilot to break the sound barrier in level flight), Pete Everest (who piloted the Bell X-2 Rocket Plane in 1955), and President and Mrs. Eisenhower. Everest and Yeager he had known during WWII.
In the late 1950s he purchased a newly modified North American/Ryan Navion with wing tipped tanks. He flew this for business, to visit family in North Carolina, and in the occasional race. He enjoyed taking guests up in the air on their first plane rides, some of whom later became pilots.
In 1970, Ben and his wife, Velda Percival Jones, moved to Apex, NC. They purchased land in Chatham County between Pittsboro and Siler City, and started a cow-calf operation. Hugged by rolling hills and pastures, their dream home was built in 1974 in a place where Ben said his soul was restored each day by the beautiful creations of nature and abundant, never-ending sunsets.
Ben was inducted to the North Carolina State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame in 2000. He was a life member of the Military Officer’s Association of America and a longtime member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Schools and Veterans groups enjoyed his presentations regarding his military service and patriotism during World War II. Even after retirement from the cattle business, he continued mentoring and advising others.
All who knew him can easily relate to lessons learned from him regarding love, kindness, respect for others, and a strong work ethic. He will be fondly remembered and missed by the family and friends who enjoyed his quick wit, incredible memory, random acts of kindness and love, practical jokes and humor, and the twinkle in his eye that kept him from ever growing into an elderly man.
He loved watching sports in person, and held football season tickets for the Los Angeles Rams in the 50’s and 60’s. He regularly attended various college and professional sporting events, and remained a loyal NC State Wolfpack fan. Daily news was always part of his routine, as well as studying and keeping up with the financial world on his iPad, taking drives in the country, and watching nightly sunsets. Siler City celebrated his 100th birthday with a wonderful Chatham News article, and in June 2019 the Town of Siler City honored him with a Key to the City for his courageous service during World War II. To him, his 100th and 101st birthdays were just another day in his blessed gift of life.
Having grown up experiencing hardships, loss, and struggle, he felt privileged to be able to make a contribution and help others however he could. He often shared that nothing helped him prepare for his future more than playing football because of the life lessons of teamwork and learning to make quick decisions. Ben is quoted as saying, “I want to say that anything we have achieved in our lives was because of good family, good friends, good partners, good customers, and wonderful employees.” His Faith was unfailing and he always had an encouraging word to say, wishing all family and friends to “Be Happy!”
He was preceded in death by his parents, wife Velda P. Jones, former wife Marie F. Kearney, sisters Frances J. Jackson of El Centro, CA, and Katharine Jones Ogburn of Apex, NC, nephews John D. Jackson and Chrisman Ben Jackson, and niece Sara Jackson Crosby.
Left to cherish his memory are:
His daughter, Susan Jones Brock (James) of El Centro, CA and their children: Benjamin Warren Brock (Alison) of Imperial, CA; Suzanne Brock Vanlandingham (Joshua) of Houston, TX; Sarah "Sally" Brock Sprecco (Nicholas); and Robert Malan Brock (Alejandra) of El Centro, CA.
His stepson Walter J. Wylie (Lana) of Little River, SC and their children: Kimberly Wylie Tuemler (Jim) of Charleston, SC and Robert Whitacre Wylie (Sara) of Murfreesboro, TN.
His dear companion of many years, Jean Wilson Watkins of Siler City, NC.
21 great-grandchildren: Amelia and Elizabeth Brock of Imperial, CA; Madeline, Emily, and Sarah Vanlandingham of Houston, TX; Gracie, Laney, and Brock Benjamin Sprecco; Hector and Alyssa Cazares, and Sophia and James Alexander Brock of El Centro, CA; Ryan, Paul, Caroline, Nicolas, and Rhett Tuemler of Charleston, SC; and Edward, Walter Benjamin, Ann Whitacre, and Lana Jean Wylie of Murfreesboro, TN.
Seven loving nieces: Carol Ogburn of Boise, ID; Katharine "Kit" Ogburn (Ron Walther) of Asheville, NC; Elizabeth O. Nelson of Burnsville, NC; and Dr. Cindy O. Donnelly (Tim) of Apex, NC, Maridee P. Clark (Randy) of Cary, NC, Allyson P Campbell and Laura P Henderlong (Mike).
Numerous great-nieces and nephews, cousins and friends.
The family thanks Dr. Magnus Ohman, Julie Marshall, PA, Dr. David Gibson, the UNC Hospice team (especially Pat, Cynthia, Annie, Megan, and Dr. W), Lorene, and Von for their loving care, prayers, and laughter.
A graveside service with military honors will be held at Swift Creek Baptist Church Cemetery on Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 11:00am. For those unable to attend, we invite you to watch via livestream.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a memorial contribution to UNC Hospice at 100 Roundtree Way Pittsboro, NC 27312 or their website go.unc.edu/unchospice or a charity dear to you.
Condolences to www.ApexFuneral.net
Saturday, September 19, 2020
Cary "Ben" Benjamin Jones
September 19, 2020
We were in California in the late sixties and visited Ben and Velda at their home in El Centro. They were very gracious to us. My husband was one of those “Carolina farm boys” and had always respected Ben. I have fond memories of him. Ellen Pierce
July 31, 2020
Mr. Ben was a beautiful person and always had a sweet positive spirit. I feel so very honored to have known such a great man of strength and determination. He would sometimes say to me at the end of the week, " See you Mon., and I want you to take some time for yourself". Mr. Ben would say, " I've been around a long time kiddo and I wouldn't tell you anything wrong" I miss those words of advice, I miss the jokes, I miss that mean Roast you would cook. I miss you so much. Love you Sir.
July 17, 2020
Dear Susan and Jean,
What a wonderful father and you, Susan and Jean, were so devoted to him. He was by far my favorite and I miss him and you so much. It's been a real privilege in my life to know Ben and you. I'll honor him by trying to incorporate the faith, kindness, goodness and positive outlook I saw in him in my life.
Thank you for the blessing...
July 10, 2020
I’ll always remember how kind he was to me and our family when we visited Susan out in exotic (to us) California. He made sure we weren’t bored and that was a tall order for a 13 year old. It was only much later that I appreciated what a remarkable life he had. He was truly an outstanding member of the Greatest Generation. We really need people with his character and resolve right now.
I am proud to say that I am related to Ben Jones.
July 10, 2020
I flew with “Mr Ben” when I was 12 years old while visiting Susan in El Centro after attending the Boy Scout Jamboree in Colorado Springs in 1960.He showed me the sights from “The Valley” to San Diego and evening took me to breakfast with his friends.
Have never forgotten that experience and how kind he was to me.
What a wonderful gift to all mankind he was.RIP,I hope there are airplanes and dogs on the other side.
July 9, 2020
Ben was a great member of the greatest generation. Being a recipient of his friendship and listening to his life experiences he shared will always be treasures in my life. He will always be with me, especially on every flight. He will be missed more than words can say. Sincerest sympathies to his family.
July 9, 2020
One of the finest Men you could ever meet. It was an Honor to call him my Friend. My Sons always thought so highly of him, even when they were young boys.Mr.Ben will always be missed. Such a Wonderful Man. You're flying in Heaven Now .
July 8, 2020
I loved Ben. He was a true gentle man and a "cow man" to me. I will always remember the twinkle in his eyes. He was one of a kind.
July 8, 2020
My father was a replacement pilot who joined the 316th Fighter Squadron in Italy as Ben was rotating back to the states. We got to know Ben at reunions where he was always a gracious gentleman and proud patriot. I have attached a photo below of a visit to Ben’s home in the fall of 2018 by (L to R) the incoming commander of the 316th Lt. Col. Jason “Taz” Mascetta, myself, Ben, the outgoing commander of the 316th Lt. Col. Luther “Stitch” Cross, and Bud Coward (whose father flew with Ben in the WWII version of the 316th). We had a wonderful afternoon of sharing and inspiration. Ben recounted his experiences for us as if he had just flown a mission. We will miss him and are grateful for his long service to nation, family, friends, and faith.
Kenneth Sr. Samuelson
July 6, 2020
Ben Jones was a fine friend. A few years ago I had the privilege of doing a several hour interview, primarily about WW II, and including his fascinating entire life. From that came an ongoing friendship. I will miss greatly his friendly and gracious demeanor and the several times we enjoyed conversation about mutual interests. I will miss him greatly. Ken Samuelson
June 25, 2020
We are so sorry for your loss. We love Ben and will miss him so much.
Bill and Cindy Sugg
June 24, 2020
An era of grandeur just expired. We will sorely miss him. Godspeed. Sam and Sheila