North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

July 31, 2013

After 63 years of marriage, Tarrant husband and wife die in same week

By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News

GARDENDALE — A Tarrant couple started a life together during their wedding ceremony more than 63 years ago; they ended life on earth together at their double funeral last week.

Nubert Eugene “Gene” Jones and Mary Ethel Jones were married in April 1950. Mary had a twin sister; the sisters married cousins.

Mary worked at American News before she got married, and Gene served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Shortly after his stint in the military, Gene married his bride.

The two rented a house in Tarrant, where Gene borrowed money and paid $850 for the empty lot next to their house.

Slowly, as he had time and money, he built a house for himself and Mary. The total cost of the house was less than $3,000. They lived in the house until they died, except for the last year, according to the couple’s only child, Mary Jean Johnson of Gardendale.

Johnson was in tears Monday as she relived her parents’ legacy.

Mary didn’t work after they got married, but she “wore the pants” in the marriage, said Johnson’s daughter, Blair Self McDavid, with a laugh.

“She was in charge, but he would never admit it,” Johnson said. “She was very strict. If the doors to church were open, we were always there.”

Gene worked as a chemist at LeHigh Cement Company. When he was younger, he took a mail-order drafting course, and spent much of his spare time drawing designs for houses.

“He was always sitting at the table drawing plans,” Johnson said. He was also known for building bird houses.

Johnson said the two worked well together, and they were “very scheduled people.”

“She cooked, and he always did the dishes,” said Johnson. “They always ate at the same time. They did not like to get off their schedule.”

The couple was never apart. If one was hospitalized, the other would stay in the room the entire time.

McDavid said the couple was the rock of the entire family.

“They had a perfect marriage,” she said. “They never fussed in front of us.”

Johnson nodded in agreement, saying her parents always had their heated discussions away from her, even when she was a child.

Gene was a worrier, always requiring his daughter and grandchildren to call him when they left his house and arrived at their destinations.

McDavid said she has many memories of her grandfather taking her and his other grandchildren to the park, and buying them milkshakes after visits to the dentist.

Starting three years ago, the couple lived with their daughter off and on due to failing health. They lived with her full-time for the last year.

Gene had congestive heart failure and diabetes, and had trouble walking after having two knee replacements. Mary suffered from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

They were both eventually placed in hospice care. Their hospital beds were side by side in Johnson’s house.

“Pawpaw would look over every once in a while and say, “Hey! I love you,’” said McDavid.

On July 19, Mary, who was 89, died. Her hospital bed was removed from the room the next day, and that is when Gene “lost it,” said Johnson through tears.

Mary’s viewing and funeral were scheduled for July 23, but a severe storm caused the ceremony to be delayed.

McDavid said she was brushing her grandfather’s hair, when he grabbed it from her and began brushing his own hair.

“He was getting ready to see her,” McDavid said.

Gene, who was 87, died later that day.

The family postponed Mary’s funeral, which was being held at Ridout’s Gardendale Chapel. A double service for the couple was held on Friday.

They were buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in Birmingham.

The Jones are survived by Johnson, four grandchildren and one grandchild. Their oldest grandchild, Beverly Ann Self, died in 1998 in a car accident.