Remembering the general
Minot friends of retired Air Force Gen. David C. Jones, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remember him as a man who never forgot his North Dakota upbringing and his friends in Minot.
Jones died Saturday at a military retirement community in Potomac Falls, Va. He was 92. He served first as the Air Force chief of staff and then as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Ken Johnson, who got to know Jones when he was in the military and with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Jones would always fondly say that he grew up in Minot. “He never forgot where he was from.”
Jones was born in Aberdeen, S.D., and his family moved to Minot where he grew up.
Although Johnson didn’t know Jones during his growing up years the Jones family lived in Eastwood Park and Johnson was from Sawyer Johnson said Jones’ dad was a salesman for an elevator company and the general had those same “down-to-earth feelings” toward his hometown.
“He always had time for Minot and never forgot his friends here,” said Betty Fedorchak, who also knew Jones. “He made a point of calling them and seeing them when he was here.”
Johnson recalls he got to know Jones through Ray Dobson, then publisher of The Minot Daily News, and Chuck Westlie, who, Johnson said, grew up in Minot not far from the Joneses. When Jones visited Minot the three and others in Minot would get together to play golf.
“We did a lot of visiting on the golf course,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he and Dobson would travel together when Johnson was with the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce, Minot Area Development Corp. and the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee. “We would go on VIP trips where David was going to be, like Barksdale (Air Force Base in Louisiana) or some of those air bases,” Johnson said.
Jones also became a very good friend of Gordon Olson, Johnson said. Olson was president of Minot State University.
After Jones left the military he was appointed to the board of directors for General Electric, Johnson said. He said the company usually gave their directors in the case of David a million dollars. “He donated that million dollars to Minot State University,” Johnson said. He said he felt Jones gave the money to MSU out of respect for Minot being his hometown, that he attended the college and also because a room was named in his honor there.
Johnson said he visited with Jones several times after the room at MSU was established. He said Jones was so proud that he could donate some of his medals and other items for the room at MSU.
When David Fuller became president of MSU, Johnson said he told Fuller about his friendship with Jones. He said Fuller went to Virginia to visit Jones to personally thank him for his support at Minot State.
Johnson said about two years ago he and his wife visited Arlington National Cemetery and came across the headstones there for Jones and his wife, Lois. They took photos of the headstones and now, he said, he will make them available to the Minot State Foundation and the Alumni Board so they can see where Jones’ resting place is.
Johnson said when he and Jones got together they would talk about grain and so forth because Jones’ dad was in the grain business. “We just got along fine, and it was fun to be in his company. He was a great guy,” Johnson said.
“Again, he never lost the North Dakota touch, and I believe that’s what made him successful in the service,” Johnson added.
Betty Fedorchak said she, Ruth Ziegler and Vi Benson, all with the David C. Jones Chapter of the Air Force Association, and later Ken Robertson, worked on putting items that Jones sent for the room named in his honor at MSU.
“He was such a kind and generous man,” she said.
“He was proud of the David C. Jones Chapter and felt honored that we named it for him,” she added.
In 1988 the Minot chapter won AFA Chapter of the Year for worldwide and went to Washington, D.C. Her husband, Mike, was president at the time, she said.
“You’d think it was Christmas all over for him (Jones). He was so pleased. The chapter received every single award there was.”
“On trips to Washington, he always made an effort to be there and have time for us,” she added.
Fedorchak also said he was “one of the most down-to-earth men” she has ever met.
“We were so proud of David Jones and so very proud of of his military career. He was someone to look up to,” she said.