Feb. 8—DANVILLE — Former Danville Mayor Bob Jones meant a lot to Danville, and he loved Danville in return.
"I can't think of anybody that had more impact on Danville than he had," said Ward 7 Alderman Bob Iverson.
Jones died Tuesday at age 85.
Iverson was with Jones and others at the forefront of building the mayor-alderman form of government, and Jones worked with many county and city staff members, including with his time as county treasurer and 16 years as Danville mayor, and other organizations and representatives through the years on projects.
Iverson said if someone disagreed with Jones, "I know what he was doing was what he thought was best for the city."
"And we all stayed friends," Iverson added.
Iverson said city officials had great times together after Danville City Council meetings decades ago when they would go to Jones' restaurant and sit and talk and have some food and they got to know each other.
"Danville was always in his heart," Iverson said.
Jones' love for the city also extended to the Lions and Rotary Clubs and as a 33 Degree Mason, playing a crucial role in the establishment of the Children's Dyslexia Center of East Central Illinois.
Ward 5 Alderman Mike Puhr said, "Bob was a leader, a visionary, an entrepreneur, a humble man, and more importantly a friend."
"In 1987, the city changed from a commissioner form of government to a mayor/alderman form of government, and Bob was tasked with being the leader that made it work. He did that successfully, being easily re-elected to serve a record four terms, which still stands today. This city saw continued economic growth, development and expansion under his leadership. He assembled a talented team of civic leaders, economic development experts, and successful businessmen and women, to help lead this great city through good and bad times," Puhr said.
"He was a strong mayor but was also willing to listen to other's sides and opinions on controversial issues. I had firsthand knowledge of this trait when I challenged this form of government in 1994-1995 and advocated going to a city manager form of government. Bob and I talked about issues and, it led me to run for alderman. I was not successful the first time but have now had the privilege of serving our citizens for 23 years. Bob was a great mentor."
Puhr said that after Jones left the office, he turned his efforts to another cause which was near and dear to his heart.
"He spearheaded bringing the Children's Dyslexia Center of East Central Illinois to fruition," Puhr said. "Bob struggled with dyslexia himself and wanted to give children, from numerous counties, an opportunity to overcome their own dyslexia; a tutoring service which is provided free of charge to families. I am privileged to serve on the board of governors for our (his) center which has helped children for the past 15 years. Even as Bob's health declined over the past few years, he was still a fixture at all our fundraising events, and he made sure we knew how to cook his famous bread pudding and assorted cobblers."
Jones was a successful businessman in his own right, Puhr said. "Everyone old enough remembers Colonial Parkway and of course Dairy Queen. Bob loved being around people and many times you could catch a glimpse of him sampling his products. After Bob left politics, he wanted to simply be known as Dairy Queen Bob."
Puhr said the world and city is a better place because of Jones.
Danville Human Relations Administrator Sandra Finch stated, "Mayor Jones was a good leader. I have good memories of him. He treated us all, department heads/employees, with fairness and respect. He did not show favoritism towards any of his employees. We all felt like we were one big city family. He was the father-like-figure and his assistant, Judy Henk, was the mother-like-figure for all of us. Although we had this family like atmosphere, he expected us to do our job. All the departments worked together to make sure that we gave our citizens the best customer service.
"I thank and admire Mayor Jones for appointing me as the first woman to serve as the Human Relations Director in 1990. He believed in human rights. He approved my recommendation to give our anti-discrimination law more 'teeth' so that our citizens would have stronger protection against discrimination in employment, real estate, housing, and public accommodation. I have been employed by the city for almost 34 years, and I am the only city official appointee of Mayor Jones that is still working for the city," Finch said.
She added that Mayor Jones had a big sense of humor.
"He and I would joke all the time with each other. When I saw him at city hall in November, he joked with me about an unwanted and funny gift that was left in my office. I cannot tell what that gift was, but we both laughed about that gift. I will miss Mayor Jones; I will never forget him."
Jones meant a lot to others, too.
Danville Fire Chief Aaron Marcott stated, "To me personally, Robert 'Bob' Jones was serving as the mayor of Danville at the time I was hired in fall of 1998. What I recollect of him the most was that he was always kind, had a terrific smile that set you at ease when you were around him. He seemed to always be in a positive mood.
"As a new firefighter at the time, you don't pay much attention to the political aspects of the job, you are just happy to have been given the opportunity to have one. What I remember about that time was that Mayor Jones was always supportive of the firefighters. Where it was justified and needed, he would do all he could to provide it for us. More important than that was that he generally tried to treat his employees at the fire department fairly and had a general concern for their well-being," Marcott said.
"The impact that will live on in the fire department was that Mayor Jones would insist that all fire trucks be outfitted with a traditional fire service bell. Those bells are no longer placed on our apparatus today, as they are expensive, and now considered more of a novelty than serve a useful purpose, but one of those bells will forever be used to ring out the 'coming home' ceremony held at our annual October Memorial Service. Another of those bells remained on display at his Dairy Queen location on East Main Street," Marcott said.
Former state representative and now Vermilion Advantage President/CEO Mike Marron also remembered Jones fondly.
"Mayor Jones was a wonderful man who did a lot for Danville. I love hearing the stories about how he and County Board Chairman Max Call used to work together to get projects done for the city. He was mayor during a very difficult time for Danville and he provided much needed leadership that is the basis for the positive things that are happening today. He will be missed," Marron said.