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Sports column: Gary Jones was a good man who left too soon – The Vicksburg Post

Anyone who ever played organized sports as a kid remembers the names of the teams they were on.

Seemingly random local businesses in town become part of our lives forever as we proudly represent them for a year or two. However, we rarely think much about the names on the shirts and the people who made this part of our childhood so enjoyable.

It’s time to take a minute to change that.

For the last decade, when Gary Jones was not busy ridding Vicksburg of vermin with his pest control service, he often worked growing softball for fast field play around town. Jones was a board member of the Vicksburg Girls Softball Association for five years, coaching teams, sponsoring teams and doing what he could behind the scenes to help the league thrive.

“He was a great guy,” said Mike Foley, another longtime VGSA board member. “He supported us when we needed it. He coached a team when we needed it. He sponsors a team every year. In one year he sponsored two teams.”

Jones had many hobbies – hunting, fishing, boating – but softball apparently wasn’t one of them until his granddaughter Kyleigh Cooper took up the sport at a young age.

Foley recalled first meeting Jones seven or eight years ago when grandfather and granddaughter were playing tag at Bazinsky Fields.

“I was in the stadium preparing for something. This guy comes running and he has this little girl with him and he catches her. She’s trying to learn how to throw,” Foley said. “The next time I saw him, I gave him a skills and drills pack to pitch because he didn’t know about it. He was just out there letting them throw pitches and he caught pitches.”

Foley and Jones quickly became friends, and Jones soon became one of VGSA’s key supporters and volunteers. Softball became a passion for Jones and his support of not just Kyleigh but all the girls in town who played the sport never wavered.

“His granddaughter loved playing it and he supported it. He wanted to support her and then he fell in love with her,” said Gary Jackson, current VGSA CEO. “He helped with the concession stand, he helped with the scoreboard … he helped with pretty much anything we asked him to do.”

Unfortunately, three years ago Jones encountered something that finally ended his ministry – cancer.

Jones fought it, eventually rising from his deathbed and appearing to have punched it. However, a few weeks ago, the cancer returned in full force. Last weekend, Jones lost the long fight and died at the age of 65. He was buried on Thursday.

“He was a great guy,” Jackson said. “You couldn’t ask for a better guy than him. We will miss him very much.”

The hundreds of young girls who represented Gary Jones Pest Control on Vicksburg’s youth softball fields will never forget the name. Hopefully neither will the rest of us.

Gary Jones was the kind of man that’s hard to find – a good man who would give his time, energy and money in ways big and small to make the world a little better.

The world lost a good man this week. We need more of them.

Ernest Bowker is Sports Editor for the Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at [email protected]

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