First Posted: 1/15/2009
During her 19 years of life, Jessica Jones put on a mask of comedy for everyone in her daily path. The happiness she scattered wasn't a stage act.
This week, area thespians and the theater community are spinning in disbelief over her death.
On Saturday, Jones and her brother, Josh, 17, died when their car crossed the center line and hit a pickup truck. Their sister, Hope, 8, who was sitting in the back seat, survived.
Their mother, Belinda, a teacher at Orrum Middle School, was in another automobile that followed and witnessed the horrific accident.
Jessica Jones, a Lumberton High graduate, had been involved with the Studio One troupe for more than six years. She had completed her sophomore year at UNC-Pembroke as a musical theater major.
She portrayed a Jewish mother, Golde, in her last production - an April 23 showing of “Fiddler on the Roof.” In the liner notes of the program she thanked her “Pappa” (Jimmy) for “always being there and loving her when she is unlovable.”
When exactly was that?
I know about 10 people whose laughter in a room is infectious. She was among this group.
She was a country girl with a booming, soulful, gospel voice that could carry a song. Her kindness knew no bounds. She was highly respectful of others. Jealousy and anger didn't have a chance to grow in her heart. She always found a way to squash negativity.
Yet she was far from a pushover. Jones was very serious about her craft and goals in life.
“If you crossed her, Jessica wouldn't think twice about telling you off about things she stood for,” said Jeanne Koonce, the artistic director of Studio One.
“But she could fuss someone out for doing something wrong on stage and then turn around and show them patience and understanding. She would have made a phenomenal teacher, a great minister or a great nurse because she almost needed to help other people.”
Indeed, helping others while shedding only a small candlelight on her own tremendous talents was Jones' forte.
My son, Sean, is huddled up tightly with the older Studio One performers and experiencing a loss of this nature for the first time.
In many ways, my input and support are of little value. He is 16 years old and has to deal with a painful heartache on his own. A saving grace is that he is not alone. About 20 other Studio Oners were in this tight inner circle.
Many others are on the outskirts, including middle school children who looked up to Jones as a role model. She was that and then some.
Yet now come the tough lessons.
For as much as they are educated on and around the stage, learning about the fragility of life is both brutal and necessary. They must look headfirst into a monumental mountain with many scary faces - denial, anger, remorse, and, in time, healing and hopefully some kind of peaceful acceptance.
Sort of makes all the silly fussing and complaining we do seem like a waste of time and energy.
These young adults are also being initiated into understanding that a person's life is not defined by the kind of car they drive, how much cash they have stashed away, the flashy threads in their closet, and certainly not by skin color.
Another paramount fact should likewise remain etched in stone: When behind the wheel of a 5,000 pound transportation weapon, stay alert at all times. There is no such thing as being too careful.
Because it all can change in one fleeting second or in the tailspin of a lost weekend.
The last time I saw Jessica was at the City of Lumberton's Family Fourth celebration. Sitting in the bleachers, I spotted an elderly lady dancing and making a section of the crowd roar with laughter. I leaned over and spoke my final words to her, “I'll bet you could still do that … 50 years from now.”
Jessica's dance was far shorter than anyone ever expected.
I would like to believe her message of love, kindness and happiness left a imprint on the souls of performers and friends of the theater community.
n “Follies” will be performed by the Opera House Theatre through Sunday at Wilmington's Thalian Hall. Tickets are $20 and $16. For information, call (800) 523-2820.
n “The King and I” will be performed by a touring company through Sunday at the BIT Center in Raleigh. Lou Diamond Phillips will perform in the show. Tickets are $20 to $55. For information, call (910) 834-4000.
n “Aladdin!” will be performed through July 23 by the North Carolina Kids Theatre at the Carolina Theatre in Durham. Shows run at day and night. Tickets are $10 to $20. For information, call (919) 560-3030.
n “Mamma Mia” will be performed July 27 to Aug. 1. at Charlotte's Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $20. It runs through Sunday. For information, call (704) 372-1000.
n Children's play “The Phantom Tollbooth” will be performed through July 22 at the Raleigh Little Theatre. Tickets are $8 to $10. For information, call (919) 821-3111.
n Return to the days of disco when K.C. and the Sunshine Band perform Friday at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Hip-hop acts D12, King Gordy, Slum Village and Bone Crusher will perform Saturday. Tickets are $28 to $63. For information, call (800) 272-3000.
n Return to yesteryear with “Stars of Swing” Friday at UNC-Wilmington's Kenan Auditorium. Songs include classics from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and Bobby Darin. Tickets are $16.50. For information, call (800)) 732-3643.
n Clay Aiken will perform Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum. For information, call (888) 397-3100.
n Top acts on deck at the Raleigh Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek include: Dave Matthews on July 26 ($35 and $50); Kiss and Poison on July 27 ($20, $55, $60); The Dead with Wayne Haynes on Aug. 17 ($39 and $49); John Mayer on Aug. 24 ($34 and $42); Toby Keith on Aug. 7 ($61 to $29) ; Alanis Morrisette and Barenaked Ladies on Aug. 6 ($48 to $21); Norah Jones on Aug. 16 ($58 to $28); the 20-band Ozzfest is Aug. 31 ($35, $65, $100) and Sting and Annie Lennox on Sept. 4 ($90, $60, $38). For ticket information, call (919) 719-5522.
n K.D. Lang and the N.C. Symphony will perform Saturday at Regency Park in Raleigh. Tickets are $30 and $35. Mary Chapin Carpenter and Jim Lauderdale are there on July 29 and Emmylou Harris on Aug. 14 ($38 and $53). For information, call (919) 462-2025.
n The Monster Truck Summer Heat show is at the Fayetteville's Crown Coliseum Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $8 to $18. For information, call (910) 223-2900 or (910) 323-5088.
n A motorcycle and car show is Saturday at Smith Lake in Fayetteville. For information, call (910) 396-5957.
n More than 75 women will be featured in portraits in the exhibition “Women of Our Time.” It will be at the N.C. Museum of History through Aug.1. For information, call (910) 715-0200.
n Here are a two day trips ideas for those with younger children. The N.C. Zoological Park near Asheboro is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children ages 2 to 12. Anyone under the age 2 or over 63 is free. For information, call (800) 488-0444 or visit www.nczoon.org. Or try the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach. It cost $6 for adults and $4 for children ages 6 to 17. For information, call (800) 832-3474 or visit www.aquariums.com.
Michael Jaenicke can be reached at 739-4322, Ext. 149 or [email protected]