As if I haven’t had enough losses in my life in recent weeks, my dear friend and writing partner for the Winnsboro history books, Bill Jones, died on Tuesday. He’d had a serious brain bleed that put him in the hospital last week, but he wasn’t a good surgery candidate because of other health issues. I went out to see him last Saturday, and I’m glad I was able to say goodbye before he stepped into that other place. He was a Christian and a staunch believer, so I’m sure he found his place in heaven.
This picture was taken at the book launch for the first history book we did together, Images of America, Winnsboro, and it’s my favorite picture of him.
That book came about after Arcadia Publishing contacted me to see if I’d do a book about Winnsboro. They’d found me while I was managing editor of WinnsboroToday.com, and asked if I was interested in doing the project. I told the editor who called that I’d love to do the book, but since I was fairly new to the area I didn’t know enough about Winnsboro to feel qualified. Would it be okay if I wrote it with the Winnsboro historian. They agreed and the rest is, well, history.
After I told him about it, Bill was as excited about the project as I was, so we started planning. We met every Thursday afternoon at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts to sort through pictures and decide what to include in that book that was mostly comprised of photographs. We also had to come up with chapter ideas and introductions to each chapter, as well as picture captions. Bill gave me the pictures and stories behind the images, and I organized it all, then put it into my computer to send to Arcadia electronically.
After that book was published, folks around town started asking if there would ever be a book that included some of the many columns and articles Bill had written for The Winnsboro News and other Wood County publications. We decided that we’d had such a good time putting that first book together that we’d do another, so Reflections of Winnsboro came to be.
Again, we’d meet most Thursdays at the art center where Bill would give me clippings that I would put into my computer and edit. Sometimes he’d get to telling some stories, and I’d quickly type a rough draft into my small tablet. Those were special remembrances that added depth to a subject we were covering.
In addition to being a writer and historian, Bill was a rancher, a true man of the land. We talked often about how good it is to live in the country and be connected to agriculture. There is something special about farmers and ranchers.
He was well loved and well known around town and throughout Wood County, serving on several boards for various historical societies, the Rock Gym Preservation Committee, The Winnsboro Center for the Arts, and many more. He’d been a history teacher, served in the military, and at one time he had a monthly radio show, “Look Back in History,” on KWNS 104.7FM, a Winnsboro radio station. As a journalist, he contributed articles to Texas Highways Magazine and Big “D” Magazine.
Bill was a kind, generous man, and he had a wonderful sense of humor. Sometimes he’d tell a story on himself, then grin and say, “Now, that’s not to be in the book, Maryann.”
Not long after Reflections came out, we worked with Sue Hamm on her story, Down the Webster Road, about the community of Webster that is just south of Winnsboro and the site of her family’s property that they’ve owned for 150 years. While we waited for Sue to finish a few things for that book to go to print, Bill and I decided to do another one about Winnsboro from his writings. We’d tossed that idea around a few times while working with Sue, and Bill often joked that we should go ahead, “You aren’t getting any younger you know, Maryann.”
I moved from Winnsboro to Sherman a few years ago, so I didn’t see Bill as often as I had while working on the other books, but we did meet every other month or so in the summer the year we worked with Sue. Then this past year, I went to see him several times to hand off material. He would give me more columns to consider for the book, and I’d return the ones I’d already entered. The last six months, I could tell that he was failing, and I just hoped we’d finish Reflections of Winnsboro: A Second Helping before he died.
A good third of the book is finished in my computer, and I have enough columns to get to perhaps a finish line for a smaller book than the first. That would be a nice tribute to him, but I don’t know if I can work on it. My heart is too heavy and my mind won’t stay focused.
Maybe in time.
R.I.P. Dear Friend