Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

The love of a community

Friends, family of the late Ed Jones gather to celebrate his birthday
Jul 30, 2018
Photo by: David Hotle Friends and family members of the late Ed Jones gathered Saturday to celebrate what would have been his 71st birthday with a balloon release. Many of the people at the gathering wrote messages to Ed Jones in the balloons they released.

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


“Well, Ed, you got it,” Jeff Wheeler said as he teared up Sunday afternoon, standing in front of about 30 people holding orange and black helium balloons. “I promised you would have it.”

The tears came from all who gathered as the balloons were released and floated into the Washington skies and “Happy Birthday” was sung, fulfilling a final wish of Ed “Fast Eddie” Jones to release balloons on what would have been his 71st birthday.

Wheeler had been best friends with Jones for over 20 years. An adopted member of the family, Jones had spent much time with the Wheelers, including most holidays.

“He was a good friend,” Ruth Howard, a family friend and friend of Jones, said as she waited for the balloon release. “We were the same age. I turned 71 on the day he died.”

The family, blood and adopted, who all love Jones as one of their own, determined to continue celebrating Jones’ birthday even though he was not with them. In the backyard of the Wheeler house, a birthday cake with a picture of Jones sat on a side table. A photo collage showed Jones with family members in a variety of activities, including a “graduation” party for Jones held after the Wheelers’ oldest child had graduated. Many of the people at the party wore T-shirts with a photo of Jones on the front and the words “Our Amazing Grace” on the back. Jones loved to sing the song “Amazing Grace” and regularly told people he wrote the song.

During the party, a recording of Jones singing the song was played.

Wheeler remembered the first time his wife Karen invited Jones to his first Thanksgiving. She had asked Jones if he had any place to go during the holiday and he had said no. He had been there ever since.

“We miss him so bad,” Karen said. “He always told us we were stuck with him. He said we adopted him and that Jeff was his dad and I was his mom.”

“We had a blast with him,” Wheeler said. “From the day I met him we were like best friends for life.”

Wheeler also couldn’t help but remember the terrible day just a few weeks ago when he had been cooking chicken on the grill and received a call from a friend who had only said he should try to call Ed. It was the day when he had uncharacteristically not picked up the phone and all the messages went to voice mail. He learned later Jones had died.

On Jones’ 70th birthday Wheeler recalls him accidentally letting go of a bunch of mylar balloons and watching them float away. Jones had been enthralled with the balloons floating off and wanted to release balloons on his next birthday. Wheeler said the family had celebrated Jones’ birthday for decades.

“I thought it was awesome,” Kelsie Wheeler, who had helped her parents plan the party, said. “I’m happy everyone showed up to do it.”

She had called on people in town to celebrate with the family by releasing balloons of their own. While she couldn’t see from the backyard if any other balloons had been released, she feels the community had responded.

The people who attended the party told many stories of how Jones had touched their lives. Tammy Howard, another adopted family member, said the balloon release was beautiful.

“Eddie had so many people who loved him and it just wasn’t this group — it was the entire community who loved him,” she said.

Jones was discovered dead in his apartment on July 11. His roommate Clarence Dean Pedersen, 64, faces first-degree murder charges in Jones’ death.

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