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Widow want to complete AK worker's dream

By Thomas Gnau

WAYNESVILLE — There was a moment soon after the death of her husband that Teresa Jones wasn’t sure she would be able to stay at the home they shared for three years on Old Ohio 122.

But that moment is gone, she said one week to the day after her husband, Ralph Eric Jones, 41, was killed on the job at AK Steel’s Middletown Works July 10.

“I can’t leave this place,” Teresa Jones, 43, said while sitting on her home’s back porch, next to the fish pond her husband loved so much. “Whatever it takes, I’ll hold on to it.”

There is work to be done, after all. Her husband of seven years — their anniversary was July 6 — had plans for building a gazebo on their five-acre property just west of U.S. 42. The mobile maintenance worker, a veteran of 17 years at Middletown Works, was also thinking about a greenhouse, even a small cabin out back. He wanted to build a fireplace, extend their porch and more.

“I’ve got too many of his dreams to complete,” Teresa Jones said.

James Jones, 24, Teresa Jones’s son and Ralph Eric Jones’s stepson, sat quietly nearby on the porch while his mother spoke. When she explained how her son took her husband’s last name when they were married, he brightened a bit.

Taking his name was not a difficult decision, said James Jones, a Lebanon Correctional Institution guard currently on disability.

“He was a really special guy,” he said. “He did a lot for me.”

Right now his main job is to take care of his mother, he said. “He has really been my backbone right now,” she said of her son.

Two days after burying their loved one, grief remains heavy. “I feel cheated,” Teresa Jones said.

But she invited her guest to their home last week to talk not about her sadness, but about her gratitude — gratitude to everyone who reached out to her and her family.

“We’ve heard from people we didn’t even really know, which is so appreciated,” she said.

She was grateful to see “several hundred” friends, relatives and colleagues at the visitation Monday.

“He would have been so tickled,” she said of her husband.

In a letter she wrote to The Journal, she said it would be impossible to respond to each expression of support her family has seen — the flowers, cards and calls. But every effort was and is appreciated, she wrote.

“I will make his dreams come true,” she wrote of her husband. “I know he will find a way to guide our hands in his unfinished work.”

published 07/20/03



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