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Former Brantley County resident John Jones thanked about 64 people who attended for allowing him to come home again for a little while to dedicate a painting by his daughter Maryanne Jones to the Brantley County Public Library Monday.
Jones and wife Linda, who now reside on St. Simons Island, joined with family and friends at the event to remember Maryanne, who was born the second of three daughters in 1976 with Downs syndrome and died in May of last year, defying doctors who said she may not survive at all and at best would be in and out of hospitals all her life.
“She wasn’t,” Jones said.
Perhaps because of the love and support heaped on her by her family and circle of friends, she prospered, despite her classification at birth as mildly handicapped.
“Where others see finality, Maryanne sees life,” wrote her cousin Kaela Horne on her website before her death in May of last year.
“As a smaller child, Maryanne participated in Brownie Scouts, took lessons in both tap and ballet, began reading with a ferocious appetite, and contributed to her church choir,” Horne wrote.
“She also became very involved in the Special Olympics, and developed a passion for swimming. During her years on the swim team, she learned all of the strokes — even the butterfly stroke — and actually qualified and competed in the state Olympics two separate times. ”
It wasn’t until the last 20 years or so that Maryanne became interested in painting and she attacked it with the same gusto as everything else.
Her vibrant colds and simple designs have captured the attention of many and some of her work is on display the the library as well as her website, maryannefoundation.com, from which cards and prints of several sizes can be purchased.
Some originals also are still available.
Jones told those gathered at the library that he and his wife first asked “why?” when their newborn daughter was diagnosed with the disease but over the years realized that her birth was a blessing, even with the disease.
“We finally realized that God had chosen us to be her parents, but little did we know at the time that she would touch the lives of literally thousands of people,” Jones said.
And over the years they came to regale themselves with Maryanne-isms, such as “pwobly,” the answer she gave when asked if you would like to drive the car or the golf cart.
That also was the comment she made when her mother noticed damage to a side mirror on the car after she ran off the road during a trip to town.
“How did that happen?” she asked.
“Pwobly when you hit that mailbox,” Maryanne answered.
She also coined the word “dorknob” which referred to something dumb and was delighted when she spotted it in a circular.
“That’s not dorknob,” her father said. “It’s doorknob.”
“No,” she argued. “It’s right here: d-o-o-r-k n-o-b.”
And once after Maryanne visited a neighbor and no one knew where she was, her mother told her to always leave a note.
She said she did leave a note on her mother’s dresser.
“But you need to leave it somewhere where I’ll be sure to see it,” her mother said. “Leave it on the counter.”
So next time she left the house she left a note on the counter saying where was and added this note:
“PS: The note is on the counter.”
“From the time she could talk, Maryanne often talked and laughed with someone we could not see,” Jones said.
And she would not say with whom she was conversing, even when asked with a stern tone.
On a visit to Nahunta to visit with family, Maryanne mother commented that Maryanne had a good time.
“But not with us. She was talking with her friend.”
It took an astute friend to explain the conversations.
“Don’t you see?” he asked.
“She’s talking to the angels and you just happen to be lucky enough to hear her.”
But even Maryanne was not impervious to the disease with which she had been born, and one of the effects of that chromosome abnormality is a shortened lifespan.
The Jones family recognized that, and often wondered how she would pass away.
“We didn’t want her death to be violent,” Jones said.
“We asked the Lord to take her home gently.”
In the minutes before her death, she was excited and animated, talking rapidly to some they could not see.
“The angels were all around her,” Jones said.
“And they took her home.”