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A humble, kind, generous man

Donald Forrest Jones is remembered by his family as a humble, kind, quiet, and generous man with a quick wit and a wealth of stories from a life well lived. He was always thinking about what was next in life and – even in the weeks leading up to his death was excited to be planning the next big project with his family.

After a lifelong career as an accountant, Jones – who was generally known as Don to those who knew him – reluctantly relinquished his last client at age 90.

Soon after this, Jones ensured his legacy in Wairarapa will continue for many generations when he – along with his family – made a transformational donation to the fund for building a new Wairarapa ambulance station for Wellington Free Ambulance [WFA], committing $1 million towards this vital asset for the region’s community.

In keeping with his private and humble nature, Jones was adamant that he was to remain anonymous as the source of this generous gift during his lifetime.

Growing up and spending the majority of his life in Palmerston North, Jones came from a family of six – including two sets of twins.

His father started William E Jones, a well-known monumental masonry business that is still serving the community almost 100 years later. Like several of his brothers, Jones worked for the family business for a period, taking care of the finances.

He began his career as an accountant by learning on the job and working his way up, eventually starting his own accountancy firm, which he worked in and managed for the majority of his professional life.

A lifelong bachelor, Jones was as committed to many community groups as he was to his work.

He spent many years as secretary and treasurer of Roller Skating NZ and often travelled with teams to competitions during the height of the sports’ popularity in the ’50s and ’60s.

Although never a gambler himself, Jones was also heavily involved in the lower North Island TAB, and enjoyed travelling around the horse race meets to ensure that the money going through the tote was accurate. As his niece Christine recalls, “Numbers were his thing – to the last cent, everything had to balance; it was how his mind worked and just how he was.”

His entrepreneurial nature saw Jones involved in the establishment of the Guardian newspaper in Palmerston North, something he saw as both a business opportunity and a service to the community.

The community newspaper continues today as the Manawatu Guardian.

Jones also enjoyed travelling the world and indulging his love of art and history, and would often return from trips with business ideas inspired by offshore enterprises. The fondly remembered Uncle Sam’s Americana, a burger bar that was iconic in Palmerston North for serving Hawaiian burgers with steamed buns, is but one example of this.

He was passionate about property and architecture, designing his own home and building a number of commercial properties, including one of Palmerston North’s first shopping centres, which included the first mini market for the area.

As with many entrepreneurs, Jones enjoyed huge success as well as experiencing disappointment when venutres did not turn out as planned, but his desire to pursue the next project was never dampened by the occasional adverse outcome.

Living his final years in the Wairarapa, where he enjoyed being closer to family, Jones observed and experienced first-hand the need for the service provided by WFA.

The Feonix Foundation, a charitable trust he established, has supported well over 160 charities over many years, but Jones felt the time had come to make a substantial donation with the potential help to everyone in the area, which is what prompted the donation towards the purpose-built WFA station in Masterton.

Jones was thrilled to donate to a cause that will support everyone in the region and was particularly interested in the ambulance station project due to the IL4 building rating required to ensure it will be able to remain fully operational as a community hub during a civil defence emergency.

The $1 million donation given by Jones and his family was a historic one for WFA as the largest ever single gift that a family has made to the service.

Right up until his final days of life, Jones was intent on getting things done, discussing his wish to donate the flag for the new ambulance station with his niece, a wish that WFA has confirmed it will be proud to honour when the build is complete.

His private nature meant his generosity and compassion for his community may have gone unnoticed during his lifetime, but his generous gift to WFA will almost certainly ensure his memory and legacy will be appreciated for many generations to come.

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