OXFORD – Purposeful is Lydia Jones’ word for her life.
She’s the University of Mississippi’s new official hostess as wife of its new chancellor, Dr. Dan Jones.
The statuesque, salt-and-pepper haired new grandma is very much at home in Carrier House, the university’s official residence in the wooded curve off Fraternity Row.
“I’m so proud to be in this house,” she said, sitting in a peach-colored retreat cornered between a finely appointed kitchen and her husband’s handsome library-office.
The 60-year-old Jackson native is surrounded by beautiful furniture and art by Theora Hamblett, William Dunlap and others.
She’s also brought along a few personal treasures from their large antebellum house in downtown Hazlehurst, where they made their home when Dr. Jones was chief of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Throughout the 11,540-square-foot, Neoclassical revival style brick home are oriental porcelains, tapestries and other art they’ve collected from their 71⁄2 years as Korean medical missionaries and from purposeful travels through Europe when Dr. Jones was invited to speak about his internationally acclaimed specialty, hypertension.
“Everything that we do in our life has got to be purposeful,” Jones noted.
They’ve settled in since the end of June, just ahead of Chancellor Jones’ July 1 start date.
Lydia Jones steps into her role as a charming force to be reckoned with.
Like Rhonda Keenum, her counterpart at Mississippi State University, she’s organized, strong-willed and energetic.
“Dan’s an avid reader – I’m not,” she admitted as she walked through his library, where his partiality shows for Mississippi authors and Abraham Lincoln.
She plays the piano from the days her father, a Baptist pastor, convinced his eldest child that she should be his church accompanist.
She enjoys early mornings on the screened-in back porch as her husband reads the news electronically. Across the spacious lawn, they often see deer and sometimes a bobcat.
She likes to window-shop at antique stores. She loves to entertain.
On Tuesday, she made fragrant, golden granola, which Dr. Jones eats each morning for breakfast. They share a pot of coffee with chicory.
She admits to being very hands-on and sometimes bossy with a temper. “I just get so passionate about something, but I try to keep it at the house,” the mother of two said. “I can get very excitable about things.”
That’s directly opposite from her husband’s thoughtful personality, she assessed. “We’re each other’s yin and yang.”
Jones also admits to being “a tightwad” who squirrels away rubber bands, ribbons and plastic bags. Recycling fulfills her purposeful desire for junk to avoid the landfill.
Her fiscal restraint, she said, comes from not growing up with much. “It taught me a lot. What you treasure isn’t things, it’s friendship.”
Mention the Joneses’ children and she’s quick to fetch two wedding photos, one of daughter Jennifer, 32, with husband Jaime Flechas of Oxford and the other of son Jason, 27, with wife Tiffany of Clinton.
She’s also collecting the requisite Grama Photos of 1-month-old granddaughter Brantley Claire, Jason and Tiffany’s child.
The Joneses, who met as Mississippi College students, have been married 38 years. Both “preachers’ kids,” they reflect their parents’ respect for every person, Lydia Jones said.
The idea to do mission work in Korea came from a church speaker in Laurel, where Dr. Jones was in private practice.
“It just came to us both – there was a world out there that needed us,” she said. “My friends thought we’d lost our minds.”
They’d led this perfect life since their 1978 move to Laurel, the small-town doctor and his young family. But within six months of petitioning the Southern Baptist Convention Board, they were on their way to the Orient to a hospital that needed Dr. Jones’ expertise.
“It was life-changing,” she reflected. Her husband established a hypertension clinic and they reached out to help a leper colony, where no other doctors would go.
“I thought it was going to be forever.”
But leave they did in 1992, when another purposeful feeling came over them to return to Mississippi and UMC. They chose Hazlehurst because of the beautiful, columned house, which then was owned by her retired botanist uncle.
They have helped to keep it maintained but haven’t made a habit of going back there much since the move. Daughter Jennifer was married there in late May.
The Joneses start their day together with breakfast and end it with dinner. Lydia Jones says she loves going to university-related events and hosting guests at Carrier House, which was redecorated just before a campus visit by Britain’s Prince Edward a few years ago.
“We were happy at the Med Center, very fulfilled,” she recalled. Their new move “was a big decision … a purposeful move … our next step in life.”
The Joneses are longtime friends and great admirers of his predecessor, Robert C. Khayat, who ruled the fabled Lyceum administration building at mid-campus with his charm and passion for his alma mater. It’s a tough act to follow.
“I have a wonderful feeling about what we can do here,” Jones said.
She keeps to a schedule, although it varies from day to day. She checks in on her 93-year-old mother-in-law, who lives in a local residential care facility. She works with university events planners on calendars and menus.
“I’m here for what Ole Miss needs,” she said.
Recently, she blocked off several days to visit the grandbaby, who has a pink-and-purple nursery awaiting her in Carrier House.
As she starts to plan for a family Thanksgiving, she’s also thinking about where to place a large Christmas tree to bear ornaments collected from every country they’ve visited through the years.
Maybe to put it in a corner of the expansive dining room or better, at the head of the house’s glittering front entryway.
“My new role? I get to tag along,” she said excitedly. “What a great ride.”
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lydia Jones’ Granola
Note: She said she got this recipe during a women’s conference in Taiwan years ago.
(Makes 20 cups)
10 C. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 C. wheat germ or bran
1 lb. shredded coconut
2 C. dry roasted sunflower seeds
1 C. sesame seeds
3 C. chopped nuts (combo – pecans, peanuts, almonds, walnuts etc.)
1 1/2 C. packed brown sugar
1 C. water
1 1/2 C. vegetable oil
1/2 C. honey
1/2 C. molasses
1 t. salt (optional)
2 t. cinnamon
3 t. vanilla
1/2 C. peanut butter
1 pkg. dried fruit (chopped dates or cranberries)
Preheat oven to 300.
In large mixing pan or bowl, combine first 6 dry ingredients.
In a saucepan, combine rest except dried fruit.
Heat until sugar dissolves, but do not boil.
Pour over dry ingredients and stir until well coated.
Lightly spray Pam onto 5 13”x9” pans or 3 large sided cookie sheets. Spread out mixture thinly.
Bake 30-40 minutes, stirring several times.
Cool, add dry fruit. Keeps well in zip-top freezer bags. Freezes well.
Enjoy with cold milk as morning cereal. Great over ice cream or yogurt.
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal