SHAMOKIN - As family, friends and employeees mourn his passing, Robert F. Jones is being remembered for his efforts in expanding his family hardware store business.

Jones, 73, owner-operator and president of Jones Hardware Inc., died Wednesday afternoon at his Elysburg home.

Jones, who also served one term as a Northumberland County commissioner, was not only an employer, but a great friend to Joseph Harris, a 35-year company worker.

"I will always remember the cordial gentleman he was, and how much he loved to laugh," said Harris, who manages Jones Hardware's downtown location. "He always treated me very well, and when I was going through some family crises, I always had his support."

Harris noted Jones was an avid animal lover, especially dogs and horses, "and he did a lot of stuff in the background to help those causes," he said.

Harris recalled a saying Jones had about people slowing down and thinking.

"He used to say, 'Inch by inch, life's a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard.'"

Company growth

The head of the company that his family started in 1915, Jones worked to keep the business vibrant and current, especially in light of today's hardware superstores and big-box retailers.

A key to growth of the business was affiliating with ACE Hardware.

In 1978, with Jones as secretary-treasurer, the company expanded with the purchase of the former Acme Markets building along Route 61, which became Jones Home Center. The second location focused more on home fixtures and do-it-yourself projects. He was elected president by corporation shareholders in 1980.

In 1997, Jones Home Center won ACE Hardware's most prestigious award, the President's Cup, as the best among the 6,082 stores affiliated with the company.

"It was all the staff members at both stores that made this possible," Jones said in 1997. "Everyone came together and everyone deserves to have this award."

That same year, Jones Hardware expanded again, this time into the Herndon area, purchasing the former Meckley's Farm Supply.

"Most of the ACE dealers are one principal location, but Bob oversaw the expansion into the home center and turned Jones Hardware into one of the largest ACE dealers in the state," Harris said.

Commissioner, teacher

In the midst of all that, Jones made a foray into politics. He was elected as a Northumberland County commissioner in 1995, serving in a minority position with Democrats Allen Cwalina and Charles "Chap" Lewis.

Harris said Jones ran for office because "he wanted to do his part in trying to make the area better."

From 1964 to 1970, Jones was a teacher at Shamokin High School and then Shamokin Area. He also served as director and former chairman for Northern Central Bank, as a director with the Shamokin Area Industrial Corp. and as chairman of the Shamokin Revitalization Committee.

He is survived by his wife, Linda, three children, eight grandchildren, two sisters and a brother. Funeral services are set for Monday at Mother Cabrini Church, Shamokin.