In memory of Chief Jones
Published 10:34 am Tuesday, May 12, 2015
After dedicating more than 44 years to the safety of Carter County, former West Carter County Volunteer Fire Department chief Conley Jones was recognized for that service during his memorial service Monday morning.
Dozens of local firefighters from departments all around the Tri-Cities paid tribute to Jones, who died last week. Fire trucks led the way in his funeral processional, and firefighters lined the streets as a West Carter tanker truck carried Jones’ casket to the cemetery.
The procession made its way down Milligan Highway, where the line of trucks stopped for a moment in front of the West Carter fire department. Firefighters stopped to salute the flag that was flown at half-staff in honor of Jones before giving a single fire horn blast and traveling on.
At the entrance to Happy Valley Memorial Park, the Elizabethton Fire Department hoisted a large American flag from a ladder truck. The flag waved quietly in the breeze as the funeral procession made its way beneath it on the way to the graveside services.
As the West Carter trucks continued on to the cemetery, fire trucks from the Roan Mountain, Central, Unicoi, Watauga, Hampton, Stoney Creek, Bluff City, Elizabethton and Embreeville fire departments pulled off to the side of the road nearby.
“I think Conley was looking down and smiling at us,” Todd York, Conley’s great-nephew said. “He never said this was the way he wanted it, but after 44 years of volunteer service, he deserved it. We know this was what he would have wanted.”
Jones had been a member of the West Carter County Fire Department since it was started in 1970. He was one of the founding members and worked with the Milligan Optimist Club to get the department going.
Jones became chief in 1971 and served in that position until he retired on March 22, his 83rd birthday.
Even after retirement, Jones worked with the department as a videographer filming the calls they responded to for training purposes.
For Jones, his service in the volunteer fire department was a calling in his life.
“I have enjoyed doing this over the years,” he told the Star in March. “It has been real satisfying helping people. It is like it is a calling for me.”
The West Carter fire department became what it is because of Jones’ hard work, York said.
“We are definitely going to miss his experience, his knowledge and how much he cared,” he said. “We are going to miss him kicking us in the butt because he thought we could do better. We are going to miss his stories. He had so much passion for the job. This department is about tradition, camaraderie and brotherhood. That is what he wanted it to be.”
Jones’ passing was sudden and came as a surprise to the members of the department and the rest of the community.
“He was a staple,” York said. “He was a great guy, and a great chief. There are not many chiefs there were as good as him, or that will be as good as him. That man will be missed all through the area.”