This was posted Monday, April 3, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
On Saturday night, just hours before veteran radio jock and educator Rhubarb Jones died suddenly of a heart attack, he MCed a concert starring country legend Mickey Gilley at Mill Town Music Hall in Bremen.
So it’s appropriate that Mill Town will host a public visitation service from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday. The venue has a capacity of about 1,100. The funeral service will hold the funeral service at 2 p.m. Thursday at the same location. (Originally, it was to be held at First Baptist Church in Tallapoosa but that was too small.)
On Saturday night, he was in good spirits. Bremen police chief Keith Pesnell said he spent 30 minutes shooting the breeze with Jones that evening. “We talked about how blessed we were,” he said. “He felt grateful about living in this community, the friends he has and the work he’s done.”
Randall Redding, CEO of Mill Town, was at the Gilley concert as well. On stage, he said he typically cuts up with his old high school friend Jones. Instead, he felt compelled to say something more sincere. “I appreciate our friendship,” he said. “We’ve known each other 40 years.” Jones corrected him: “47!”
“You have been such a blessing here,” Redding told Jones on stage. “We appreciate what you do here and for the community and country music.”
Redding took a photo of Jones that night:
Later, while MCing, Jones even thanked his doctor Dr. William Parrish of Tanner Health System for keeping him alive. Redding heard this, a comment that only became relevant in his head after he learned Jones had died.
Pesnell said about 16 hours later, at about 1:10 p.m. on Sunday, Jones collapsed at the Walmart in Bremen while shopping with his 14-year-old daughter Presley, getting a new battery for his pick-up truck. Customers tried to revive him via CPR. Transported to nearby Higgins General Hospital, he was pronounced dead soon after.
READ MORE: My original obit about Jones from yesterday
“He was truly a treasure,” said William “Pete” Bridges, mayor of Tallapoosa, 57 miles west of downtown Atlanta off I-20 where Jones grew up and moved back to 11 years ago on the same road he lived on as a child. They eventually renamed the road Rhubarb Lane. “He was a member of our downtown development authority,” Bridges said. “We had a meeting this morning. We spent a good amount of time over donuts telling stories about him. He was a good community leader.”
As mayor every day, he drives every block of his small town of 3,500 in his pickup truck and would often see Jones each morning in his front yard before he left for Kennesaw State for his job as a development director and professor. “He would wave at me,” he said. “It was almost a daily thing.”
Scott Whitlock, a long-time friend of his going back a quarter century and long-time athletic coach and director at KSU, helped Jones get his job at the university in 2008.
“We had a 25-year conversation that never ended,” Whitlock said, “whether we talked four times in a day or once a week. Our families vacationed together. My kids knew him as their uncle. He was like a brother to me. We didn’t agree on everything but we never stopped caring for each other.”
Their final conversation was on Saturday. “It was one of the best conversations we’ve had in a long time,” Whitlock said. “You’d have to know our relationship. It was just me and him laughing and joking and talking and just enjoying one another. Having fun. Not worried about anything or anybody. He was getting ready to take his daughter for spring break in Florida. His last words to me were, ‘I’ll talk to you after awhile,’ then he hung up.”
“I’m not trying to make him out to be a saint or immortal,” Whitlock added. “He was my friend. There were a lot of people that were comfortable riding to work with him when he was on the air. There were a lot of people comfortable when he was on the soap box about leukemia and stuff. They knew he was sincere. He just was. He was Rhubarb.”
KSU is on spring break. He had been teaching a media management class. Josh Azriel, a colleague, said there are three weeks left in the semester. He is not sure who will take over Jones’ class.
Steve Mitchell, a former colleague of Jones at Y106 and Eagle 106.7, posted some video he did with him a few years ago.
Here he talked about his work raising money with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s March Across Georgia by collecting pennies. Later, he did a celebrity golf tournament.
He celebrated his 40th birthday with Wayne Newton. “The single most great memory of doing a morning show,” he said.
He here recounted how he got his gig at Y106 in 1985 and how he built that morning show:
Here he is celebrating his daughter Callie’s first birthday in 2005. Callie is now 11.