Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Ben Jones


The Shelter Island community was diminished last Thursday, January 14, when word came that Ben Jones had died.

As Bob DeStefano wrote in a tribute to Ben  it’s remarkable that the death of a 93-year-old man could come as a shock. It’s a testament to Ben’s life that friends and acquaintances viewed him not only as a strong, healthy man, but also his measured optimism made him seem indestructible.

A family man, married to Betty for 71 years, father of three and grandfather of five, Ben was a veteran of World War II, serving in Europe.

He devoted a large part of his life after a successful business career to helping others; Ben’s work as an emergency medical technician was exemplary. Awarded the prestigious 2013 James O. Page Charitable Foundation Special Lifetime Achievement Award in EMS by the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, the proclamation read, in part: “… he could have retired very comfortably. But he wanted to make a difference, a real difference, in people’s lives.”

Prepared for every call, a first responder who was an even-tempered pro under every circumstance, Ben saved lives and helped bring them into the world, delivering 11 babies.

It’s telling that, along with eight of his colleagues, Ben headed to lower Manhattan to offer assistance on the morning of September 11, 2001. Like the best in his profession, he was someone who was willing to risk his life for the lives of people he’d never met.

An inspiration to his fellow EMTs, perhaps the greatest part of his legacy as a volunteer is the guidance and counsel he provided to the new, younger members who came into our ambulance corps. By being a guide, teacher and mentor, Ben was ensuring that professionalism, courtesy and dedication would continue within the Emergency Medical Services here.

Steve Makos, a friend from Massachusetts, summed it up in a comment he posted to Bob DeStefano’s tribute: “What would Ben Jones do? Always the right thing, for the right reason without ever wanting anything in return.”

It’s tempting to say when a friend like Ben passes away that we won’t see his like again. But through his quiet examples of grace and integrity, Ben made sure people would remember him and strive to emulate his character.