Jones remembered for work ethic, kind heart

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shown here Wayne Bennett presents a check to Zelmer Jones for money toward the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 2009. | File photo


Andalusia lost a “pillar of the community” on Tuesday when Zelmer Jones, 85, passed away shortly after midnight.

Fellow Kiwanians and members of the community remembered Jones for his sincerity, kind heart and powerful work ethic.

“Mr. Zelmer had a tremendous influence on all of Andalusia he touched, not just Kiwanis,” said Kiwanis past president Steve Thomas. “He was the backbone of Kiwanis, whether it was bagging groceries for Jerry’s Kids, or anything he was involved in was a success.”

Jerry’s Kids is the name associated with children and adults assisted by the Muscular Dystrophy Association because of Jerry Lewis’s support of the long-running nationwide telethon that is held on Labor Day each year.

Jones became an advocate for the MDA, because his grandson, Brian, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, said Casey Thompson, a fellow Kiwanian.

“For so many years, the MDA was doing their telethon, and Mr. Zelmer was the force behind getting people to bag groceries here for MDA,” Thompson said. “He was a firm believer in it, and was dedicated to it. He made sure every store was covered and people were in place. He was very proud that (Kiwanis) would give a large contribution to MDA. It would be an enormous amount. It was strictly Mr. Zelmer.”

Thompson said Jones was also known for his “radio days,” where, as a fundraiser, Kiwanians solicit ads from local businesses, which are aired on WAAO.

“He was our No.1 ad man,” Thompson said. “He worked the streets, and most of the money went to LBW scholarships.”

Jones spent the bulk of his professional career as an insurance salesman.

Bill Lucas of Dothan, formerly of Andalusia, described Jones as a “legendary insurance man.”

“He worked harder than any man ever has in the insurance business, and we all wanted to be as good as Zelmer was,” Lucas said. “He learned so much from this man because he was willing to share his knowledge with the younger salesmen if they were willing to learn.

“He won every award that could possibly be won due to his hard work and dedication to his customers of Southern Life and Health Insurance Company.”

Jones also worked at Keahey Funeral Home for 20 years, comforting families in their times of need.

“We moved to Andalusia and purchased the funeral home in 1991,” said Kym Keahey. “Zelmer started working for us in 1992. The best word to describe Zelmer was ‘loyal.’

“He was loyal to us; loyal to his family; loyal to his church; to his clients, who purchased insurance from him and loyal to his Christian standards.”

Keahey said Jones was also “a man of his word.”

“If Zelmer said he would do something; it would be done,” she said. “If he said he would be some place at a particular time; Zelmer was there.”

“Zelmer has been an asset to our company for 20 years, and he will be greatly missed as a fellow employee, but mostly as a friend,” Keahey said.

Otway Grimes, who also worked with Jones at Keahey Funeral Home, called him “a good fellow.”

“We worked together for four or five years,” he said. “I’ve been knowing him all my life. He used to come to come to the house and collect insurance. We went and picked up people together at the funeral home. He was a fine, fine man.”

In 2003, Jones was awarded the Citizen of the Year by the Andalusia Kiwanis Club, Harry Hinson said. He was also awarded the Kiwanian of the Year award during his tenure as a Kiwanian.

In 2009, Jones was awarded the prestigious Distinguished Service Award at the annual Chamber banquet.

Thompson said with Jones’ passing, there will be “giant holes” to fill in the community.

“It’s easy to find someone to do a job, but it’s not easy to find someone who really loves it, and is dedicated. It was a life goal of his.”

Funeral arrangements are incomplete and will be announced later by Keahey Funeral Home.