Rutherford County has produced its share of stars. From Smoky Burgess to Tonya Philbeck Hobbs, these parts have studded the skies.
Ironically as the county sports hall of fame was announcing its class of 2019, Dennis Jones was fixing to move his light to the other side of the rainbow bridge.
Sports and music and even literature shine starlight to warm our hearts and offer inspiration.
Here's how Dennis Jones did it. After many years of on air work with WNCW 88.7 and hosting bluegrass events around the region, he built an almost unbelievable record of humbly promoting others.
Jones passed Friday, June 14, after many years of disability and overcoming disability.
He had a head full of facts and trivia. He could quote chapter and verse on almost every important moment in the bluegrass world, knew the names of all the greats, celebrated their birthdays, knew most of their mamas and what their favorite colors were. Okay, that's maybe a little exaggeration. But it's close.
At his June 19 funeral, mourners heard IMBA award winner Darin and Brooke Aldridge.
On the night of his passing, Balsam Range bass player Tim Surret, praised him to the packed house at the POPS in downtown Forest City. It was a tender moment of tribute. Many of the hundreds present listen to WNCW's Going Across the Mountain and Gospel Truth, two shows that were spiced with Jones's heart and soul for many years.
WCNW's Kim Clark said of Jones, "He lived it. That's why he was so good. He was a fully human being, not a saint."
WNCW is one of those radio stations that has mastered online promotions and literally has a worldwide audience, especially for bluegrass and Gospel bluegrass. To say that hands are over hearts internationally at the passing of Jones is no overstatement.
But the ghost of Dennis Jones would be at Rutherford Weekly's office raising cane if we did not mention his first love. His prayerful devotion to the man who walked on water was sold out. While he was a genius at deflecting praise from himself and putting his attention on the musicians and singers he celebrated, his love for Jesus finished first, second and third in his book.
He loved to tell the story of Jesus.
He wrote on his Facebook page, "I am nothing. I draw my next breath by a merciful God who saved me by his son, Jesus Christ."
His first cousin, the Rev. James Humphries eulogized him by talking about his heroic determination to succeed despite polio, arthritis, and in the end, liver disease.
Kela Simpson said, "He was a sweet friend who brought a smile to everyone he met."
His nephew Jamie Ruppe wrote on his Facebook page, "From the time I was born until his passing on June 14th, my Uncle Dennis Jones spoiled me rotten. I could do no wrong in his eyes. Even though I did wrong time and time again he still showed me unyielding compassion and relentless love, giving me second chances multiple times. Nobody/nothing will ever fill the void that's left in my soul now."
His friend Sharon Collie Northern said, "Goodness gracious, I wish I could tell Dennis Jones about the Mater' Sammich I just ate."
His former colleague Faith Davis blogged, "He made tough work days bearable just by making me laugh. It wasn't part of my original job to help him in Studio B, but when he lost one of his assistants to budget cuts, I gladly picked up the slack. Those ended up being some of my favorite memories of working with his. He would talk about what I said on my blog, we would chat about microphones. He had some cool ones! He would tell me stories from his California days. He talked about his family and asked about mine, and we had random conversations while we worked on getting the studio set up for his sessions. He showed me how to set up the microphones, where to put the wire. Every setup was a little different. He NEVER got mad, just laughingly ragged me and made me redo it, again and again. I was so happy when I finally learned the way he wanted it and would get it right on the first try.
"He would tell you exactly how it was, and he pulled no punches, but when you were his friend, you knew he had your back. He loved God, he loved his family, and he loved his friends. It was my honor and utter privilege to have been one of the latter."
His friend Lizzie Luna spoke to him directly on Facebook, "You always put a smile on my face and knew when I was blue even when we were worlds apart."
According to his obituary on the Eggers Funeral Home website, Dennis traveled the globe working for various bands before landing behind the mic at 88.7 WNCW. His love for bluegrass music, and the artists who produce it, quickly made him a champion of the genre. Dennis's greatest honor was being blessed enough to work with what he considered to be the greatest artists in the music industry. Whether it was in the studio, at a live show, or emceeing a festival he was always in awe of the talent before him.
Dennis leaves behind a loving family of his father and mother, John "Pete" and Ruth Ruppe. Sisters: Barbara "Nanner" Wells, Rhonda "AR" Ruppe; nieces and nephews, Jamie "Maditude's Mom" Ruppe, Dakota "Kaka" Cogdell, Johnathan "Luigi" Henson, Justin "Mario" Henson and wife Kierston "Special K;" great nieces and nephews, Madison "Maditude" Powell, Kynder, Callie "Sister", and Trevor "Oather" Cogdell. A host of loving uncles, aunts, and cousins as well as his bluegrass family and friends.
Jones left big shoes to fill for anybody who wants to play in the sandbox of radio. His light touch was to say as little as possible, all of it chocked with important content, and as quickly as possible get back to the music.
He was a hero and inspiration to many, but never wanted anybody to admire him. He was always pointing somewhere else.
His family has asked that memorials be sent to the Shriners Hospital for Children, c/o Donor Relations, 2900 Rocky Point Drive, Tampa, FL. 33607 or lovetherescue.org.
He graduated from Crest High School and studied at Western Carolina University and Limestone College.
Contact Pat Jobe at firstname.lastname@example.org.