Dodie Jones Remembered By Carole Lucido
Jun 26, 2017 10:46PM
By Elena Hutslar
A Friend Pleasant Hill Will Never Forget
By Carole Lucido
Dodie Jones was a person you could never forget. She was larger than life, and she played an important and influential role in Pleasant Hill. She worked at the Pleasant Hill Community Center for nearly 40 years and left a legacy of enthusiasm, happiness, and joy that touched generations. She passed away on February 9, 2017, at the age of 96, but her spirit lives on.
Doreen Royston Jones started at Pleasant Hill Recreation & Park District (PHR&PD) as a preschool teacher. A mother of three, Dodie was attuned to the joy and excitement of discovery and learning. She told me once how she taught the children at PHR&PD Preschool about dinosaurs. She showed the children pictures and described the prehistoric animals. She asked them to look around and said something like, “Dinosaurs lived in places just like Pleasant Hill! Maybe you can find a dinosaur egg right here in Pleasant Hill Park.” I can picture the twinkle in her eye as she watched the kids squeal with delight as they found their treasure – a dozen baby cantaloupes she had hidden earlier in the day throughout the lawn and shrubbery.
I met Dodie at PHR&PD in the fall of 2000, when I was hired to help with communications. She was the communications manager in charge of community outreach, and she also managed programs for the District. She orchestrated an inviting and enriching schedule of classes that produced income for the District while enriching the lives of participants.
During this time, I never gave much thought to how old Dodie was. She had a youthful spirit and an innate joy of life. It was such a pleasure to work with her. In fact, when we worked at Earth Day at the Concord Pavilion, she totally outdid me despite being 37 years my senior. After about six hours out in the warm, pollen-filled hills, the event was over and I had a bad case of hay fever. I was over-heated and headed home to a cool shower and a place on the couch. Dodie, however, went back to the community center and worked for another few hours! At this time, Dodie must have been 82 years old.
Dodie had a passion for learning and elicited a creative spark in persons of all ages. She established Recreation Summer School and assembled a team of both teen and adult instructors. She interviewed each one and carefully taught the teens what a job interview was like and what it’s like to have a job. Over the 34 years she managed the program, she brought even more joy to the youth of the city.
When we worked those long hours, we would share stories of our lives, and Dodie’s stories were the best. She shared how her mother had been an upper-class English lady who married for love and left the privileged life in Britain for life on a farm in Morgan Hill, California. Dodie was the only daughter, and her mother insisted she learn the finer parts of life, like playing the piano and learning French. Dodie’s brothers were allowed to run free outside, while Dodie had to find time for her studies before she could figure a way to slip out. At one point in her adolescence, her grandmother must have been worried about her upbringing because she insisted that Dodie come back to England to live with her. I’m not sure how long that lasted, but Dodie had an appreciation of English tea, spoke French, and played the piano.
Dodie was a mother of two daughters and a son. The family lived in an old Victorian home in Alameda, and Dodie worked for the recreation department at the city. Tom McHale became a friend of the whole family when he was in high school. He said, “Dodie was the first ‘hippy-mom’ I ever met. She encouraged her kids to eat natural foods, enjoy the outdoors, speak their minds, read, and not watch television (they didn’t even own one.)
“There was always some craft on the kitchen table,” he recalled. “It might be clay, watercolor or acrylic paints, or even cake decorating.” Tom decided to join the Marine Corps and spent one year in Vietnam. When he returned home and was going to college, Dodie encouraged him to go into recreation. It was her good word that helped Tom get a job with the Alameda recreation department. A few years later, Tom graduated from college and got a job with the fledgling Pleasant Hill Recreation & Park District. Tom is proud of the fact that he was the one who hired Dodie at Pleasant Hill Recreation.
Dodie’s life seemed to be a series of circles – rich friendships and experiences woven together to form a beautiful pattern of life. She continued to work for Pleasant Hill Recreation & Park District and brought young people together with art, music, and culture.
Tom McHale continued to visit, and Dodie kept up with the rest of us via the telephone and email. She always made you feel so welcome and appreciated. She was free with her praise and would lift you up so that you could become the best version of yourself. I hope that all of us who were lucky enough to know her can live up to her 96-year legacy of living with a smile, a twinkle in our eye, and a positive expectation for what is to come.