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101-year-old navy veteran recounts her experience

By Gabriella Brown

At 101 years old, World Wall II veteran and resident of Morgantown Isabel Jones hardly seems a day over 85.

“To be 101 years old and to be as sharp and alert and on top of things the way she is, is phenomenal,” said Sarah Minear, a friend of Jones. “She’s an inspiration to all of us here.”

Jones is one of the oldest living females to have served in the military, and was one of the earliest members of WAVES, the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service program. She said she still remembers the day she received a letter in the mail in the early 1940s, asking her to join the Navy.

“Of course I said yes,” Jones said.

As a coder stationed in Washington, D.C., she was responsible for charting courses for ships to keep sailors out of harm’s way. She said she remembers during the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France, they were responsible for ensuring the safe passage of Allied ships.

Jones said coders could be working up to 12-hour shifts, communicating with vessels in places as far as off the coast of Australia.

While these events and communications are now declassified, during the war, Jones was forbidden from discussing the information she knew from her job.

“We never talked about it any time we left the building,” Jones said. “We never mentioned what we were doing. We just answered [that] it was a secret.”

Prior to enlisting in the Navy, Jones attended Vassar College in New York. She later transferred to the University of Minnesota to be closer to home. After graduating with a degree in history and political science, she taught for only one year in Austin, Minn. before enlisting.

“The principal didn’t want me to leave,” Jones said. “I said, well, it was wartime.”

After serving in the Navy for just over two years, Jones got married. Once she became pregnant with her first child, she retired to focus on starting her family. She had four children who went on to become a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer and a nurse.

Now a grandmother, she enjoys spending time with her family whenever possible. Because of COVID-19, she is unable to leave her home as often as she would like, but said she wants to stay well so she can continue watching over her family.

“The day on my birthday, my daughter wanted to do something and I said no way,” Jones said. “So, she went to a restaurant and got me a hamburger, and we ate outside on the porch.”

Jones lives independently at The Village at Heritage Point, a not-for-profit senior living community in Monongalia County. She enjoys watching all different types of sports, including basketball and golf. She said she moved to West Virginia in 1965 and has been a Mountaineer ever since.

When she isn’t cheering on her favorite sports teams, she said she likes to  attend exercise classes multiple times a week at the Village.

From spending time with her friends and family to continuing to enjoy her favorite hobbies, she  stays active and tries new things. For her, she said the best way to live a long and healthy life is to put others first.

“I think the biggest thing is to get involved with people,” Jones said. “Think about other people, not about yourself.” 

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