Jack A. Jones, 90, of Indianapolis passed away on December 10, 2020. He was born at home in Kokomo, Indiana on January 3rd, 1930 to Laurence Beckner and Jeanette (Cochran) Jones. In 1931 the family moved to Indianapolis, where Jack has resided ever since.
Jack was a graduate of Shortridge High School in 1948 and then attended Butler University and Indiana University after a stint in the US Army. He was called up for service in the Korean War in 1951, where his early high school training earned him the designation “Official US Army 16-MM Projectionist”. This designation meant that Jack spent his days in the general’s quarters showing films to the officers prior to their arrival in Korea. Additional quality time was spent serving the US Army as a fourth for Bridge and Euchre.
In the Army, he also found his third passion in life (behind his wife Joanne and Buicks): Food. In Korea he served as a cook and his designation as a corporal had him running a kitchen versus some version of KP duty. Throughout Jack’s life, the pursuit of good food was always a common theme that directed his and the family’s travels. Every town had their local “spot” that he always found and made sure everyone dined at same. In later years this passion became more refined. Cross-country trips were routed around the location of the best pies and sweets the country had to offer – often not the most direct route, but always the most memorable. A classic story is the stop in Maine for some specialty jams and jellies. The shop was on a small side street, so Jack told Joanne to let him out and he’d locate the shop. It was a Sunday and chances were slim the shop would be open; but, undaunted, a few minutes later he returned with a box of jams and jellies. Too bad the box wasn’t actually addressed to Jack.
After Korea, Jack entered Indiana University and studied accounting. His first round of full-time employment was as an insurance company auditor. He traveled throughout Indiana, Illinois and Ohio in his first Buick, a 1954 Special Convertible. In the mid-fifties he joined the local Tall Club chapter (men over 6’2″ and women over 5’10”). The Tall Club provided the exact type of group Jack loved: adventuresome, organized, and always ready for good food. It was through the Tall Club on the way to a national meet in Miami, Florida that Jack met Joanne. Driving to the pool in his Buick convertible, Jack spotted a pretty woman standing on the curb and pulled up beside her. “Hop in”, he said. Eying the car already full of young women, Joanne replied, “No thanks, looks like you have your quota”. Jack drove around the corner, unloaded the car, and returned to try again. This time he was successful… and we’ll finish that story later.
In 1955 Jack moved from accounting to sales, starting at what was then the Ogle Dellen Buick dealership on 38th Street. Except for a brief foray into Jaguars, Jack stayed with Buick until his retirement in…. (actually, Jack never quit selling cars. His final car sale was in July of 2020 and he was still buying Buicks in November of 2020). For 50-plus years Jack was a consistent top salesman, earning Buick’s Top Salesman award for 40 of those years. His work as a salesman carried over into his personal hobbies as well. With the construction of a six-car garage at home in the mid-seventies, his personal collection of Buicks consistently hovered around 10. The oldest would be a 1939 Business Coupe similar to the first Buick Joanne drove. Several convertibles came and went from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Rivieras were always a good-looking addition to the fleet, and a new station wagon each year was available for transporting the Jones kids and crew.
From 1960 thru the 1990’s Buick supplied demonstrators to their salesmen. Most would be custom-ordered by Jack and they never lasted long before they were sold. Back in the day, when your Buick needed service, Jack would drop off his demo and pick up your car for service. Rarely did the “old” Buick ever get returned. Just a little paperwork and the freshly-serviced Buick would be on the Used Car lot and the Demo had a new owner. Jack would regularly order multiple Demos at the same time, knowing full well that his favorite combination of accessories would also be someone else’s.
After sorting out their initial meeting, Jack married Joanne Kessler in 1958. Joanne was the perfect partner for Jack. A registered nurse with a knack for details and planning, she was always willing to support and assemble their multiple adventures. The Tall Club, the Buick Club (local and national), and multiple other organizations all benefited from their teamwork. Their son Larry was born in 1960, and daughter Gayle in 1962. The 60’s and 70’s were good years to be a Buick salesman. Jack regularly sold 200+ cars in any given year. Joanne raised the kids, vacations were taken, shopping trips to New York and Chicago were an annual event. Life was good.
In the late 70’s Joanne returned to nursing. First as a home nurse serving the community, and later as a teacher and director of the J Everett Light Career Center LPN programs. As the car industry changed through the 80’s and 90’s, Jack and Joanne’s skill set constantly adjusted.
The 80’s also saw Jack become more involved on a national level with the Buick Club of America. Multiple local and national shows were attended and Jack played a substantial role in assembling the Buick National meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To this day, when you visit with a Buick Club member many will have a framed picture of their car crossing the Yard of Bricks on the IMS track.
The 90’s and 2000’s saw the arrival of grandchildren. Larry married Dawn Johnson and along came Bailey, Beck and Carly. Gayle had moved to New York City after graduation from the University of Cincinnati. Gayle’s career path through the fashion industry led her to Van Heusen where she first began travel to Europe for design and then Asia to oversee production. This drew the attention of Eddie Bauer, who hired Gayle and moved her to Seattle. It was there Gayle met Greg Blahut and started her family with the birth of Julia and Rex. Having grandkids in Seattle was fine for Jack and Joanne, who saw it as the perfect excuse to travel. Greg’s work in the tech industry allowed the family to move to Bentonville, when an opportunity arose for Gayle to become a VP for the Men’s Clothing line with Walmart.
Gayle became ill in 2006 and Joanne spent several months in Bentonville caring for her. Unfortunately, though, Gayle never recovered and passed away that year. This was a devastating blow to Jack and Joanne; something they never got over. Years later, Jack would still brag about his daughter’s amazing accomplishments and wonder what more she could have done had her life not been cut short.
The 2000’s were still good years for Jack and Joanne, though. The thousands of customers Jack had developed over the years still called. Jack’s sales career came full circle: the last dealership he worked for was Dellen Buick in Greenfield, which was owned by the same family that he started working for in 1955. Joanne retired from the Washington Township School District but still stayed involved with the St Vincent Guild as President, and later as a support volunteer to families with patients in the ICU ward.
Joanne passed away in 2018 and Jack was heartbroken to lose the partner he frequently described as the “perfect woman”. He soon crafted a new routine, though, finding vital social connections through membership in the Indianapolis chapter of City Club, association with various veterans group, and a revolving group of bridge players. In May 2019 he took a trip to see Jay Leno’s famous garage, a mecca for a lifelong car enthusiast like Jack. The trip provided much-needed respite after Joanne’s passing… as well as a whole new round of stories for Jack to tell. Jack told great stories, always lively and full of charm and a little mischief. His mind was sharp and his recollection of names and events was amazing. Jack was independent to the end, living out his final days in the home he and Joanne had shared. He most recently enjoyed showing off his final acquisition: a coveted ’53 Buick Skylark Convertible, the crowning jewel in any Buick-lover’s collection.
Jack Jones was one of a kind and he will be missed deeply by all who knew him. Here’s to wishing him well in afterlife, where we hope he will have an endless list of past and future friends to entertain.
Leppert Mortuary, Nora Chapel assisting with funeral arrangements. You are invited to visit www.leppertmortuary.com to share a personal memory of Jack or make a contribution to Indy Honor Flight, PO Box 10, Plainfield, IN 46168 firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to Covid-19 virus there was a private family funeral service for Jack and a celebration of his life service to be held at an appropriate date in the future.
Published in The Indianapolis Star from Dec. 19 to Dec. 20, 2020.