Darrington remembers a mayor who spoke her mind

DARRINGTON — Joyce Jones was elected mayor in November 2003, though her name wasn’t even on the ballot.

She served two terms as Darrington’s mayor and was known for her tell-it-like-it-is-style of management. Jones, 79, died from heart failure Nov. 4 in a Seattle hospital.

Like many in this logging town, Jones had Tarheel roots. She was born Dec. 17, 1933, in Sylva, N.C., to Alvin and Frances Jones. In the midst of the Great Depression, the Jones family moved to Darrington so her dad could work in the woods.

For the rest of her life, Jones treasured her North Carolina heritage. In elementary school, Jones traded lunches with her lifelong friend, Frankie Jones (now Frankie Nations-Bryson). Joyce wanted Frankie’s homemade Tarheel sausage and biscuit sandwiches and Frankie wanted Joyce’s store-bought white bread sandwiches.

“I was embarrassed about the biscuits,” said Nations-Bryson, a former town councilwoman. “I learned then that Joyce was the type of person that if you needed help, you went to her. She was a great friend and we’re all going to miss her.”

In high school, the beautiful Jones was a member of Glee Club and Torch Honor Society. She graduated from Darrington High in 1951. She soon married and had three children.

In 1962, Jones went to work for the U.S. Forest Service, which at the time was still a mostly male agency. She started out at the log scale and retired in 1993 as the manager of budgets and finance for the Darrington District of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

During her Forest Service tenure, Jones also served as a crew member supporting forest firefighters, work that took her to Alaska and Florida as well. She had great knowledge about the timber industry. She wasn’t shy about expressing her contempt for federal changes in logging practices that put a lot of Darrington people out of work.

Darrington District Ranger Peter Forbes said he always enjoyed talking about the Forest Service with Jones.

“She was always so gracious,” Forbes said. “But there was never a hidden agenda with Joyce. You knew she was working for the town and doing what she could to help.”

As mayor, Jones served the town during the recent recession, helping to garner state and federal grants that kept the economically struggling community afloat. She demanded that town council members not skip meetings. She was a good listener, but if a meeting got out of hand, she was quick to use her gavel — and her humor. Always ladylike, she nevertheless demanded to be in the know and kept a police scanner running in her home at all times.

Town Clerk Lyla Boyd remembered that Jones frequently bought the town employees treats, brought them flowers and always “had our backs and treated us like family.”

“She also thoroughly enjoyed her role as hostess of the town,” Boyd said. “Joyce and her best friend, my Aunt Donna, were my early baby-sitters, and we established a bond that lasted through the years.

“She loved telling stories of Darrington’s past, some of the more scandalous tales, with a twinkle in her eye. Joyce loved Darrington, and Darrington loved her back.”

Stanwood Mayor Dianne White said she enjoyed working with Jones on the North Snohomish County Mayors Coalition, along with former Arlington mayor Margaret Larson.

“What a loss,” White said. “Joyce was a real advocate for her community.”

In 2011, Jones ran for a third term, but lost by a narrow margin to her friend, current Mayor Dan Rankin.

“Joyce was always the person I went to for the stories of our community, and even of my family,” Rankin said. “Professionally, she was the ideal mayor. She was passionate about our community and really spoke her mind. But she wasn’t controlling. As a councilman, I got enthusiastic permission from her to pursue projects to benefit our town.”

Jones also served during 2013 as a member of the Snohomish County Civil Service Commission. She liked jazz, roses and English bulldogs. She loved her trips to Hawaii. And she could bake a mean pie.

She is survived by two sisters, Linda Nations and Carol Merrell, and their families; her children and their families, Larry Aiken of Stanwood, Nita Randall of Sedro-Woolley and Jackie Aiken of Everett; and granddaughter, Lydia Joyce Randall of Mount Vernon.

Along with her friend Janet Cabe, Jones served decades on Darrington’s Memorial Dinner Committee. The tradition in Darrington is that the committee provides the funeral dinner for families after the death of any member of the community. Jones always brought dozens of deviled eggs.

The memorial service for Joyce Jones is set for 2 p.m. Saturday in the dining room of the Darrington Community Center, 570 Sauk Ave. Dinner follows, though without Jones’s deviled eggs.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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