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By Troy Treasure
The term centenarian may be hard to fathom but Ken Jones is, among other things, a gentleman with a firm grasp of his facts.
The Shelbina resident was born May 6, 1921 three miles west of Sigsbee.
Mr. Jones will celebrate a special milestone Thursday.
The son of Arthur B. and Maggie M. Jones, Ken was asked about his childhood. He had one distinct memory – one not unique among his generation.
“My folks went through the Depression. No one had any money,” Jones said. “My father was a fairly big farmer, for that time.”
Ken met his future wife, Margaret, when both worked at Curtiss-Wright Aircraft in St. Louis during World War II. Though both were from Shelby County, they had not been acquainted before.
Margaret delivered mail to various departments throughout the facility.
“They gave her a commercial three-wheel bicycle with a box on the back. I’d see her pedal up and down the aisles. There was a lot of mail,” Jones remembered.
“One day I saw her going by and I happened to have some mail,” he continued.
“I got to talking to her and found out she was from Shelbina. That did it. We started dating then.”
By the summer of 1943, Ken had purchased a 1939 V-12 Lincoln Zephyr.
“It was a really nice car. A lot of cars didn’t have radios or heaters at that time. I’d come up here on the weekend quite bit and she got to ride with me. Her folks lived here,” he said.
“I think that’s, really, what attracted her; she had a free ride home on the weekend,” he added with a chuckle.
Ken and Margaret married but the union was not one typical of today. Both had professional careers.
“We didn’t get married until later years and we never rushed into things,” he said. “We talked everything over, about children, and everything we could think of before we got married. We both wanted to retire back here. We settled that.”
Ken said he and Margaret were married for 63 years. Margaret died in 2006. They never did have children.
Jones said last week his work on the Manhattan Project is one aspect of his life he is most proud of. Ken has a rebuttal to those who believe America’s use of the atomic bomb in World War II was a mistake.
“I explain to them that it saved a lot of American lives. If we were to invade Japan, we would have lost a lot of men,” he said.
Ken indicated there were unknowns leading up to the weapon’s use.
“We tested one down in Alamogordo, New Mexico and found out it would go off,” he recalled. “They didn’t even know if it would go off, or what would happen if it did.”
These days, it seems Jones is a creature of habit. He awakes at 6 a.m., has breakfast (usually fruit) and either listens to or watches news broadcasts. By 10 a.m., if not a little earlier, it is off to the Shelbina Senior Citizens Center.
Ken’s evenings are often spent watching television shows such as Gunsmoke and the Andy Griffith Show – sometimes until 1 or 2 a.m. He considers sleeping a waste of time.
“I never have any trouble sleeping, I always had trouble getting to bed,” he joked.
“If I get three hours, I’m in good shape,” he added. “If I get less than three hours, I notice my legs sometimes will ache a little bit.”
Jones was asked what he attributed his longevity to.
“I’ll tell you what I told one lady here the other day. She was from around north of Kirksville here with her income tax,” he answered. “Somebody told her I was about 100.
“She asked me that. I told her a lot of young women and good whiskey,” he added with laughter.
For the record, Ken’s answer was a completely facetious remark.
Typically when an American citizen turns 100 years old, they receive a congratulatory letter from the President of the United States.
“I’m kind of looking forward to that. It’s never happened to me before,” Jones said with a laugh, “and it’s never going to happen again.”