By David Hotle, The JOURNAL
Although Ed ?Fast Eddie? Jones won?t be here to celebrate what would have been his 71st birthday on Sunday, members of his surrogate family want to mark the occasion.
At 3 p.m. Sunday, July 29, Kelsie Wheeler and her family plan to release orange and black balloons from their backyard in honor of Jones? birthday and are inviting other members of the community to do the same from their own homes. Remembering how Jones had been part of her life since she was 4 years old, Wheeler didn?t want Jones? birthday to go unnoticed.
?We have had him at our house for the past 22 years,? Wheeler said. ?My dad was pretty much best friends with him. He came to Thanksgiving and Christmas here. We just had him here on the Fourth of July and let him light off the first of the fireworks this year. He was part of our family. We treated him like family and we never treated him any different from anyone else.?
Jones was discovered dead in his apartment on July 11. His roommate Clarence Dean Pedersen, 64, faces fist-degree murder charges in Jones? death.
Last year, on Jones? 70th birthday, Wheeler and her family released balloons to Jones? delight. He had released balloons while attending a camp and wanted to do so for his birthday. About three weeks ago, while Jones was talking with Wheeler?s father he mentioned he hoped to release balloons once again.
?It?s important for us because it is the first year he is not with us,? Wheeler said. ?We are going to celebrate his birthday every year just like we did before.?
The family thought releasing balloons as a community would be a wonderful way to honor Jones.
When Wheeler thinks of Jones, she thinks of someone who may as well have been another uncle. She remembers Jones attending all her family high school graduations. After her own graduation in 2011, Wheeler recalled Jones? sadness thinking of how there were no more graduations to attend. The family, however, surprised him by giving Jones his own graduation party, complete with a cap and gown.
Growing up and going to school in Washington, she introduced Jones to some of her friends, only to discover most knew him from his passionate love of Demon sports. ?I was a cheerleader in high school and I would realize he would go to all the games and then help sweep the floors afterward,? she remembered with a smile.