Even while wearing a pale blue face mask, it was easy to see Virginia Jones’ eyes light up as she was honored by the McHenry-based Combined Veterans Honor Guard for her service in World War II while celebrating her 100th birthday Friday.
With a group of White Oaks at McHenry employees around her in the facility’s lobby, Jones received a big bouquet of flowers and a certificate in recognition of the “love, patience [and] courage” she showed during World War II from a member of the McHenry American Legion Post 491, which is part of the honor guard.
Jones marveled over the flowers, which she called “beautiful.”
Later, a small group of her family and other members of the honor guard stood outside her window at the facility, following COVID-19 precautions, to unveil a big banner with the words “Happy 100th birthday, Virginia” and to sing to her. One member of the honor guard called out “semper fi” in recognition of Jones’ time in the Marines.
When asked how she feels to be 100, Jones said she feels the same way she does every day, “which is very lucky.”
“I almost never get sick,” she said.
Jones served in World War II for the Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., and eventually was promoted to captain. While in the Marines, Jones was in charge of all special correspondence and managed the staff who also dealt with correspondence.
The people with whom Jones was in the Marine Corps were kind to her, she said.
“They thought I was important, and so they made it so that I was to speak at every major event,” Jones said. “They were a wonderful bunch to work for.”
It was a difficult job that involved a lot, Jones said, but she managed because of the help from her fellow Marines.
“It was really kind of fun in the long run,” she said.
Fran Snow, Jones’ niece, said her aunt had a great opportunity to serve the country that she thoroughly enjoyed.
“She’s extremely capable,” Snow said. “I think that’s why she was promoted several times to ultimately be a captain.”
One thing Jones remembers fondly from the Marine Corps was the banquets, where she said “everyone was nice to each other for a change” and the entertainment was “elegant.”
“Everybody behaved for once,” Jones said. “There was no fighting.”
After the war, Jones moved to Rochester, New York, with her husband, where they lived for many years and had four children. Jones later relocated to West Virginia, Iowa, then Illinois.
Jones was very active in the arts and civics community, Snow said. Jones and her husband both had “beautiful voices” and sang in the choir.
Jones, who attended the University of Iowa’s Iowa Writer’s Workshop, published a book about her family.
Snow said it was wonderful that the staff at White Oaks, a memory care facility, thought of her aunt and worked to see her honored by the Combined Veterans Honor Guard on Friday.
Thomas Waldenburg of Cary, a member of the McHenry Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4600 and the local American Legion, said they do whatever they can for any veteran.
“We’re honored to do it,” Waldenburg said. “Even though they’re out of the military now, we still support them because they are veterans.”
Jones, who Snow said is her favorite aunt, balances a “wonderful sense of decorum” with a “wonderful sense of humor.” A “bright, positive person,” she said, Jones always rolls with the punches and is always interested in something new.
Mariclare Daniels, a certified nursing assistant at White Oaks, called Jones “one of the coolest residents” she’s met.
“She is a jokester,” Daniels said. “She definitely turns your day around. ... We put music on, and she’ll dance and she sings.”
Daniels said she’s never personally seen someone turn 100, so it was definitely a unique experience. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a relief to see some positivity, she said.
All in all, Jones said, it was a wonderful day for her.
“It only takes one day to cure everything,” she said.