When Angela Geiger sees the bike paths that twist and turn throughout Sonoma Valley – especially the path along the lower portion of Fryer Creek – she thinks of her mom, Virginia Jones.
Jones, affectionately known by so many Valley residents as their beloved “Ginny,” died of cancer in 2009 but not before leaving behind a legacy of community outreach, environmentalism and activism.
“My mom cared so deeply about the things she care about and she had a lot of those causes. … She was involved in environmentalism before the green movement caught on, she was before her time in that way,” Geiger, one of Jones’ three children, said.
Today, a plaque sits at each end of the lower Fryer Creek trail, dedicating it to Virginia Jones. When maintenance was done on the creek in the ’70s to minimize flooding and “straighten” it, Geiger recalled, Jones was instrumental in encouraging the city to plant trees and native plants along the path. “Having a part of the trail she worked on dedicated to her is a fitting thing to do,” Geiger said.
Jones’ work on the trail came partly because her Harrington Drive home backed up to the creek and because of her experience working to create a sophisticated trail system throughout Sonoma County. Longtime Sonoma resident and a friend of Jones, Johanna Patri remembered how the two worked on the Sonoma County Trails committee to create and maintain trails throughout the Sonoma Valley. Jones, Patri said, was particularly interested in seeing bike paths built around Sonoma that hooked up to a trail network that ran to the center of town.
“I think she was most proud of her trails work and being outdoors, being able to walk, and enjoy and preserve the creeks,” Patri said of Jones.
Gregg Montgomery, who lives on Harrington Drive, is involved with the Peace and Justice group, and was Jones’ neighbor, has been working with the city to facilitate the trail dedication. Montgomery said Jones was an inspiration to him and so many others. He was always amazed at her zest for learning and her compassion for others – even when they did not agree with her. “She was such a kind a gentle person who had a clear vision of how you go about creating change in the community.”
Lauren Ayers, who has lived in Sonoma on and off for the last four decades and was a close friend of Jones, said Jones was “not flashy.” “She sort of snuck up on you and she saw beyond her own personal issues and was there to help you with yours.”
But most importantly, Ayers said, Jones care deeply about people. “Sonoma Valley is a good place to live because of people like (Jones) going beyond their own interest and benefit for that of others.”
In addition to her work on Fryer Creek and other Valley trails, Jones worked out at Quarry Hill, volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club with a focus on adult literacy, and held vigils with the Peace and Justice group. But what she may most be known for throughout Sonoma is opening her home and her swimming pool to teach so many local youth how to swim in the summer.
When Jones was in her 60s, she and Patri, who both held bachelor’s degrees – Jones had been a teacher – went back to Sonoma State University to take environmental studies classes. They eventually both earned a second bachelor’s excited at the new knowledge they had and eager to apply it in the local community.
“Her authenticity made her so special,” said Patri.
Today, Geiger remembers a motto that was dear to her mother: think globally, act locally, and carries on her mother’s activist spirit in small ways in her own life. “It’s a commitment to working for things you believe in.”
Patri said Jones would be touched at the trail dedication. “She would just think this was a culmination of recognition of who she was. She would have loved to be there, but she will be there with us in spirit.”
Family and friends of Jones will meet at the picnic tables near the Fryer Creek bridge this Sunday, April 6 at 2 p.m., for an informal gathering to celebrate Jones and the love that she had for this community and its residents. For more information, contact Montgomery at 996-3596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.