Sunday, August 3, 2003

Some good news

Former teacher turns 100

Allen Howard

A hundred years' worth of history crosses the mind of Della L. Jones as she looks out the window of her house on Cynthiana Street, Williamstown, Ky.

She grew up there and celebrated her 100th birthday July 7. She is the only African-American in this town of 3,227, tucked among rolling hills, midway between Lexington and Cincinnati on I-75.

Just the name Della Jones is an icon. Mention it and everybody knows who you are talking about.

Della Jones
"Most people when they get old, they have fewer friends," said Pam Moberly, a visiting nurse who sees Jones five days a week. "But not her. It seems that the older she gets, the more friends she gets. She has more friends than you can imagine, young and old."

Most of them showed up at her birthday party, Jones said, including many of the students she taught in her 36 years of teaching throughout Wayne, Boone, Grant, Harrison, and Owen counties.

"This was a big birthday party and I loved it," Jones said. "There were students that I had taught that came in from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and throughout Kentucky."

She even got a call from University of Kentucky basketball coach Tubby Smith. Kentucky state representative Reginald Meeks and the mayor of Elsmere, Ky, William Bradford, were there.

Though she has been confined to a wheelchair since both legs have been amputated, she lives an active life through conversation, memories and sharing a few dreams of the future.

"The one thing I would like to correct in the school system is the dropout rate," she said. "There are too many kids giving up and dropping out of school. You can't do anything in this world without an education."

This comes from a person who never gave up on getting an education. After graduating from high school in 1923 and marrying in 1929, she returned to school in 1936.

"I was determined to get a college degree," she said.

She took summer courses and extension classes and finally received her bachelor's degree in education from Kentucky State University in 1957. She was 54.

"Martin Luther King Jr. was the commencement speaker," Jones said.

She taught in one-room school buildings in a segregated school system around the state

She was also a school librarian from 1943 to 1974.

Over the years, the black population has gone from 50 to one.

"Most of the young blacks moved away and the old ones died off. I am the only one left," she said.

Allen Howard's "Some Good News" column runs Sunday-Friday. If you have suggestions about outstanding achievements, or people who are uplifting to the Tristate, let him know at 768-8362, at or by fax at 768-8340.

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