In the short time Gilbert Jones left his Marshall County home, a lot had changed — Kentucky Dam had been built, his home had electricity and World War II was over.
Jones was honored on Veterans Day by the Fort Massac Daughters of the American Revolution with the receipt of a Quilt of Valor for his service to his nation.
According to qovf.org, Blue Star mom and quilter Catherine Roberts began the Quilts of Valor Foundation in 2003 in Seaford, Delaware, during her son Nathanael’s year-long deployment to Iraq. She had a dream of a “young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The permeating feeling was one of utter despair. I could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional gutter. Then, as if viewing a movie, I saw him in the next scene wrapped in a quilt. His whole demeanor changed from one of despair to one of hope and well-being. The quilt had made this dramatic change. The message of my dream was: Quilts = Healing.”
QOVF awarded its first quilt in November 2003 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to a young soldier from Minnesota. As of Friday, Nov. 11, 326,777 quilts have been presented to service members and veterans who have been touched by war.
Along with the quilt, which carries a label certifying it as a Quilt of Valor, recipients are also given a certificate registering the quilt with the foundation and honoring the recipient for their years of service.
The DAR quilt was made and donated by chapter member Glenda Moody Moore, of Mesquite, Texas, to be presented to a service member. It is the third Quilt of Valor the chapter has presented. The first was in 2019 to Carl Mescher, a survivor of Pearl Harbor; and the second in 2021 to James “Jiggs” Whalen, who at 102 is the county’s oldest living veteran, serving in the Navy during World War II. Whalen and Jones are believed to be the county’s last surviving World War II veterans.
The presentation to Jones was made at the Metropolis Public Library during its breakfast for veterans and prior to the annual service held by Metropolis American Legion Post 306. Several veterans who were attending the breakfast came and watched the presentation, which was overseen by DAR regent Diane Block. DAR members Kathy Reagor and Kelley Sullivan presented the quilt to Jones, who was accompanied by his wife Jean.
“We were honored to have Mr. Jones presentation done at the library. I’m grateful to DAR for thinking of us,” said library director Rosemary Baxter.
Sgt. William Gilbert Jones landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He is among the many World War II veterans who don’t like to talk about his service. He was in high school when he was drafted into the Army, shortly after his 18th birthday. He will be 98 on Dec. 14.
“They run out of people,” he said of being drafted.
Jones grew up in Marshall County around Benton, Kentucky, “where the lake is now. When I got back home, they’d finished Kentucky Dam and the people had electricity; they didn’t have none when I left. They got electricity while I was gone because they finished the dam,” he said.
Once drafted, he was placed in the infantry. He remembers being sent to England and was there for two weeks before being sent to France and into Germany, to the edge of Berlin.
“When the war was over, they took the infantry and sent them right back home,” he said.
Jones served in the Army for 18 months. He finished high school in Brewers, Kentucky, and played on its basketball team for six months until he was “too old.”
“Back then, you had to walk to school. I couldn’t go in the wintertime, so I was still in high school. People didn’t graduate then until they were 18 or 19. They couldn’t get to school when they was young,” he said.
Jones graduated from Murray State University, and then taught agriculture in Missouri for around six years. He lived in numerous states, working at chemical plants. Metropolis became home in 1958 when he came with the opening of then-Allied Chemical, now Honeywell. He retired from Allied after 30 years.
“I never did go back to Marshall County where I come from in Kentucky,” he said.
Jones and Bill Carrell began Monday Night Live for the city. “He came to me and wanted to start the dance. He played and sang. He was instigator of it and I helped him,” Carrell said.
Jones and his wife Jean have been married for eight years. He has one daughter, Rhonda Jones, who lives in St. Louis.
“He is an amazing man,” Block said. “We are honored to be here today to recognize him as a veteran.”