Fighting to Breathe — and to Breathe Life into Her Community

Beverly Jones's heart is with her neighborhood — even when she can't be there.
Beverly Jones's heart is with her neighborhood — even when she can't be there. DENISE HOLLINSHED

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click to enlarge Jones's family reunion. - COURTESY BEVERLY JONES
Jones's family reunion.

Never Perfect, But Ever Savvy

Jones has devoted all of her professional life to focusing on families and young people. Her admirers say she has put countless youths back on the right track or kept them heading in the right direction.

And yet, as noted, two of her own children are in prison, along with a grandson. That would be Danielle Jones Mack, 35, who has served over a decade in prison for murder. Jones' eldest, Linda Bradley, 41, is at the St. Louis City Justice Center where she awaits a sentencing hearing on a gun violation. Grandson Michael Whitney, 24, is serving time at the Pacific Correctional Center for vehicle theft and assault against a law enforcement officer. Jones's two other daughters are solid citizens. Patricia Ballard, 37, is a homemaker and raising four children with her husband in a home not far from Jones. Her youngest, Anita, 29, lives in Dellwood with her child and attends nursing school aiming to be a licensed practical nurse.

Jones acknowledges she could have been a much better mom to her kids, though she adds that her children should also be accountable and own up to their own mistakes. Everybody needs to be accountable for what they have done, she believes. She would never blame her parents.

Jones's father Lawrence Jones worked most of his life as a skycap and while now fragile remains a doting grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather. Her mother Berniece, who died in 2013, raised their eight children, setting an example for them. "My mother was beautiful. She dressed nice. When she put herself together, it was like, 'Wow, I want to do that, too.'"

In the 1970s, the couple moved from the city to a nice home in the county and gave young Beverly and her siblings every opportunity to fit in at what were then reasonably good public schools in the Normandy School District.

But young Beverly was ever curious, restless and entrepreneurial. Unfortunately, in the early going she took those attributes in the wrong direction.

"I guess my mom would say that I've been an adult my entire life. It was always: Why this? Why that? with me. I always tried to figure out what fit me. Not just doing what you're supposed to do — playing jacks and jump rope, cheerleading, majorettes, drum major. That never worked for me. My mother was a homemaker. But that's not what I wanted for my life."

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