Recreation director, athlete, ukulele player, free spirit. Born July 2, 1929, in North Vancouver, died March 13, 2013, in Edmonton of natural causes, aged 83.
It’s hard to forget the sight of Maurice Jones, at 81, leading the chorus of the young folks howling at the moon.
They had left the open stage at Devaney’s Irish Pub to bear witness to the lunar eclipse that bone-chilling Edmonton night. Maurice turned out to be a bare witness.
As his young pals looked up at the sky, Maurice stopped howling and said: “Um, could somebody give me a hand?” It turned out his plaid pyjama pants had fallen down, exposing Maurice’s skinny, blue-white legs to the elements. The pants were quickly pulled up, and all he could do was laugh.
Maurice was the ultimate free spirit. In his 83 years, he was a wanderer, an athlete, fisherman, recreation director, octogenarian pot smoker, tireless admirer of young women and, above all, a wonderful ukulele player.
A gathering to honour his life in March quickly turned into an open stage. All that was missing was Maurice strumming his uke and singing Let the Honey Wind Blow.
He grew up in a big family, but his mother died giving birth to a younger sibling when Maurice was about nine. He was not enamoured of his father’s second wife and left home early, pursuing various careers. He had a huge passion for sports, including a tryout with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 1950s. A picture of Maurice and a cousin shirtless on skis on top of Mount Washington says it all. He became a recreation director in British Columbia, then in Australia for seven years.
Maurice was crusty, but underneath was a deep well of kindness. Though he died broke, he always wanted to help, buying flowers he could not afford for a female musician or giving away a prized ukulele. His kindness went back to childhood: He found a bird with a broken wing and nursed it back to health, setting the wing with balsa wood from a model airplane kit.
Maurice was tough, which no doubt extended his life. A couple of years ago, when he was still living alone in a seniors’ apartment complex, he couldn’t get out of the bath. The harder he tried the worse it got because of a torn rotator cuff. He banged on the wall to no avail.
So he sat in the tub, and sat and sat, occasionally replenishing the warm water and drinking out of the tap as he had heard on the Discovery Channel that humans can survive for weeks without food as long as they keep hydrated. That bath lasted for more than three days, until a cleaner finally found him.
The worst part about it? It was Easter, and the announcer on the radio described the dinner he was about to have. “I was starving, and this guy was talking about ham and turkey and trimmings,” Maurice said.
For all the stories, there are many missing pieces. We knew he had a son and an ex-wife in Vancouver whom he never saw. He still had siblings and step-siblings he had not seen for decades. He had so little to do with his family that one of his young Edmonton friends acted as his executor.
Yes, Maurice was a free spirit, howling at the moon. Part of that freedom involved giving up family. Was it worth the sacrifice? We will never know.
Mike Sadava and Dana Wylie were friends of Maurice.
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