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Jones' life celebrated by family, friends

John Jones
John Jones
Jones Family Photo

STANSBURY PARK, Tooele County — John Jones was a young overachiever in constant forward motion who suddenly stopped still last week, but his infectious joy for life and the good he did in the world will never come to rest, his family and friends promised each other at a memorial service Saturday.

The dedicated medical student and ever-vigilant son of God lived life to the fullest, said his father, Leon Jones. It was a trait Leon said he admired in his son, though at times it seemed as if John was "banging his head against the veil" between life and death.

"But he wouldn't let up," he said, "and this time, dang him, he made it. If I could have gotten through to him to loosen up a little bit, I think we'd still have him."

The outpouring of support Saturday and last week's rescue effort to free the 26-year-old husband and father — who had become stuck in a nearby cave that is now his grave — attests that "John is still with us and his spirit will abide," said Elliot K. Morris, president of the Stansbury Park Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Those 50 or so rescuers who tried to save John didn't manage to achieve the outcome everyone was hoping and praying for, "but they didn't fail," Morris said. "They rescued all of us in way because it showed again that we have in us an undeniable urge to help others, especially under tragic situations."

Friends said John had a way of drawing others to him but that he no doubt would be a little embarrassed about causing such a big fuss.

"He was someone who was all about helping others and making sure everyone else is OK," said Danny Bennett, who described his friend and former BYU roommate as cheerful, funny and a well-known penny-pincher.

"He's the hardest-working person I've ever met — and the hardest-sleeping," Bennett said, recalling John's vintage 1970s yellow alarm clock that was loud enough to wake everyone in the building — except John. "I had to shake him awake almost every morning."

True to his nature literally down to his last breath, John was worried about those who were going to all that trouble over him, his widow, Emily, said Saturday. Communicating with his family from inside the cave, John wanted to make sure rescuers were being careful, and he kept assuring everyone that things would be all right, she said.

He wasn't. He had been stuck head first and upside down 700 feet below the surface for nearly 28 hours in a narrow L-shaped corridor called the Birth Canal in Nutty Putty cave located west of Utah Lake.

More than 50 people tried to rescue the 6-foot, 190-pound man using bolt anchors, ropes and anything they could think of to get him out. The idea would have worked, but anchors kept pulling out of the stone under the weight, including one that had managed to bear up long enough to move him 12 feet.

One thing that didn't give way was his sense of humor, Emily Jones said.

He told her the mishap could not turn into a funeral. "That's just not in our budget right now," she said he told her.

e-mail: jthalman@desnews.com