Owen Jones was the best he could be


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The American poet and short story writer Douglas Malloch (1877-1938) was perhaps best known for writing the poem Be the Best You Can Be. Its final stanza reads: “If you can’t be a highway then just be a path, If you can’t be the sun, be a star.” It is not by size that you win or fail. Be the best of all that you are.

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The late Owen Jones illustrated these words. Although he did not yearn for a high calling in life, he saw a need in his hometown and set out to respond to it with unwavering dedication. His choice of occupation may have been viewed as humble by many, but for him it was an important job that required his best efforts. He set out to become the best in his daily endeavors and succeeded.

Equipped only with Tim Horton’s paper cup, whisk and plastic bag. Owen began to sweep the gutters in the streets of Picton. Day after day, for many years, he set to work without any expectation of recognition or compensation. He was a man on a mission, very proud of the town of Picton. He never did less than his best in the job he had chosen.

Dressed in his signature jacket, a distinctive “coat of many colors”, he worked in silence, focused on his work. Taciturn by nature, he rarely struck up a conversation with passers-by and declined offers of lunch or more sophisticated tools for his job.

During the winter months, he shoveled trails through snow banks piled up against the edges of Main Street, creating safe access to local shops for pedestrians. It was a duty he took seriously and performed without fail.

Sadly, Owen Jones passed away on Christmas Day, following a short battle with cancer. When news of his death was posted on the community’s Facebook sites, messages of condolence immediately arrived in response. One woman observed that when she walked through town, the sight of Owen at work always gave her a reassuring feeling that all was well with the world. Another local resident wrote that when she met him while walking his puppy, his salute was barely recognized, but his eyes lit up like a child’s as he stroked his dog.

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Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson issued a message of condolence congratulating Owen on his many years of dedicated service to the city. He said he ordered the flag at Shire Hall to be half-masted as a tribute to a man who was a highly regarded member of the community. He added that further recognition of his contributions would be given at a later date.

Owen Jones recognized an opportunity, set out to be the best he can be at what he has done, and achieved his goal in a much bigger way than he could have imagined. Years of faithfully making his hometown a cleaner place to live have earned him the respect and admiration of an entire community. The Man in the Multicolored Coat will be sadly missed as he has become an integral part of the Picton cityscape. Day in and day out, he could be seen working hard in a wide variety of places. No one could remember exactly when he had started his mission as it seemed like he had always been there – part of the daily life of the city.

Mourned today for his selfless contribution to his hometown, many suggestions were made on the community’s Facebook pages as to how he should be honored. A man who has not sought any praise or public recognition in life, perhaps his wish would be that we pursue his pride in keeping the streets of Picton clean and strive to keep them free from debris. We too must focus on being the best of who we are by following his example.

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