This is one in my occasional series of profiles of people worth remembering. Grandma Jones was our nanny – and one of the most important people in my life. My daughter Jessica is named in her honor. Grandma Jones took care of my two brothers and me every week day when our parents were working or busy. Jessie Dale Reed Jones was born in 1891 and died in 1983. She was the widow of U.S. Army Captain Ernest Thomas Jones, who died in San Francisco in 1941 (just as the U.S. was entering World War II). She is buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery (SECTION K, SITE 2765-A).
Grandma Jones came to work for our family after my older brother Mark was born in 1955. My mother said Grandma Jones tapped on the window of their flat on Cervantes Boulevard in San Francisco’s Marina district. She said she heard a baby crying and that if my mother wanted a babysitter to please call. Grandma Jones took care of us from before my birth until I was in High School. I remember that she used to sit at our table and drink coffee with milk and smoke a cigarette after my mother got home in the afternoon. Sometimes she shared an afternoon drink with my mother.
My mother said that Grandma Jones talked about being stationed in China before World War II, and about Dwight Eisenhower whom she knew when he was a young officer in Georgia. Grandma Jones described Eisenhower as being jovial, even bouncy, but that he wore his cap too far back on his head. Even twenty years after her beloved husband’s death, I remember her talking about her Ernest. My mother said that Grandma Jones regularly visited his grave in the Presidio in San Francisco.
Every day I would walk home from school to find her making my snack – an egg salad sandwich with a bowl of cream of mushroom soup. (The first time I ordered an egg salad sandwich in a restaurant, I was very surprised that it was served cold. When Grandma Jones made it, the egg was still warm from the boiling water.)
Even though Grandma Jones had family in Roanoke, Virginia, she was independent and wanted to live alone in San Francisco. She had friends on the Presidio Army base but was a little bored. Taking care of our family filled her days. I was her special favorite and thrived on her devotion. Every Christmas, we would dress in our best and Grandma Jones would take my brothers and me to the Emporium department store on Market Street downtown. We admired the decorated shop windows and the Emporium’s great dome. We had lunch in the store, talked to Santa, and could pick out anything we wanted for a present, so long as it cost less than $5. I remember my great excitement at a day out with Grandma Jones, a restaurant lunch, getting to use the family bathroom stall (for which she paid extra), and picking out my own present.
Grandma Jones finally moved to live with her family in Roanoke toward the end of her long life. She died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 92 after suffering a stroke. Recently, when sorting through older art by my mother, we found a painting that may be of Grandma Jones. We have added it to our family portrait collection in the dining room.
Images Copyright 1954-2012 by Katy Dickinson and Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson