In Memory

Mary Virginia Jones
September 5, 1927 – July 9, 2005

(Plain Press, August 2005) Mary Virginia Jones, a college professor, actor, and resident of the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood for more than a dozen years, died of natural causes Saturday, July 9th, at Lakewood Hospital.  She wrote theater reviews for the Plain Press for eight years.  

Dr. Jones, 77, was born in the District of Columbia on Sept. 5, 1927, and spent some of her earlier life in Virginia.  She could trace her family roots back to the Revolutionary War, and she often celebrated her Welsh heritage.  She loved many things southern, including grits, but as an unrepentant liberal she bemoaned southern politics.

Dr. Jones was a retired professor of modern languages, most recently at Case Western Reserve University.  Earlier she had taught at Cleveland State University, the College of Wooster, Colgate University, Indiana University, Wartburg College, Moorhead State University, Indiana University, the University of Oregon, Emory University and the European Division of the University of Maryland.

She was graduated with a bachelor’s degree in French in 1951 from the University of North Carolina.  She received an M.A.T. in French from Johns Hopkins University in 1958 and an M.A. in French from Middlebury College in 1962.  She went on to receive a Ph.D. in French in 1983 from Indiana University, where she appeared on the stage with fellow student Kevin Kline.  She loved languages and had taught not only her favorite, French, but also Spanish.  Over the years she continued to learn languages, including Japanese.  

Her interest in languages and cultures was integrated into her travels, which took her often to France but also to Russia, Egypt, Tunisia, Mexico, and Japan.  She had lived in Hong Kong, where she worked for the Red Cross and served in Korea during the Korean War.  

Since coming to Cleveland in 1983, Dr. Jones had acted in a variety of roles in community theaters, demonstrating her flair for comedy and her passion for drama. Earlier, she had acted off Broadway in New York City, and she recalled going backstage at the “Fantastiks” when it opened.  She was a patron of the arts in Cleveland, enjoying local theater, music and art.  She played the piano and earlier had danced in ballet.  

Dr. Jones celebrated life to the fullest.  In addition to traveling and theater, she enjoyed fine wine and food, and the company of diverse friends.  

From her earliest years to the present, Dr. Jones’ travels, family and career introduced her to an array of famous people.  Her friends were agitating for her to write her memoirs, with a tentative title, “Confessions of an Itinerant Actress.”  

An early chapter would focus on her father, who managed prohibition for President Herbert Hoover but also knew the diminutive Jack Daniels.

In school, fellow students included actor George Grizzard (“Advice and Consent”) and Roger Mudd, the well-known broadcast journalist.  She counted among her friends Amy Brennamen of the long-running television program, “Judging Amy,” and her mother, a judge in Connecticut.  

Friends joked that one chapter had to be called, “Ron Howard peed on me,” named for a not-so-famous incident when she held him as a baby while appearing as the wife in a stock company production of “The Seven Year Itch.”  This was during Ron Howard’s first stage performance, directed by his father Rance Howard decades before Ron’s career as an actor in “Happy Days” and as an established Hollywood director.  Dr. Jones commented about the incident: “Little Ronny was rather late to toilet train.”

Once while in Paris, she helped out some friends who were entertaining faded European royalty by posing as a maid and serving the titled couple.

In Cleveland, Dr. Jones appreciated the diverse Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood she called home for more than a dozen years. She had participated in meetings of the Bridge Brigade, a block club, and went on many CB patrols, criss-crossing the neighborhood in a mobile neighborhood watch.  About two years ago she moved to an assisted-living residence in Lakewood.

She had been married and was divorced.

She is survived by a sister, Betty Nord of Savannah, Ga.; three nieces, Libby Owens of Braine L’Alleud, Belgium; Robyn Cole of Atlanta; and Virginia Ruths of Woodland Park, Colo.; and two nephews, Robert Pee of Centreville, Va., and Thomas Pee of Athens, Ga.; and many friends.


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