Tres Jones' family plants oak tree as living tribute
Mr. and Mrs. Mary Vance and Lan Jones lost their son, James Landon "Tres" Jones III, on Jan. 2, 2010. In their grief, the history major's family went online in search of a way to commemorate his life.
Posted: May 11, 2010
Jones' family and friends standing in front of his just-planted-memorial tree giving the Hook 'Em Horns sign
The family decided on a living tribute tree and wanted to plant it on May 7, the day of the annual UT Remembers ceremony. This service honors members of The University of Texas community who died during the past year. It is an especially meaningful event for family and friends to come together to reflect on their loved one's life.
Mrs. Jones contacted the university's Landscape Services Section of Facilities Services just two weeks prior to the event. But the urban forester who started the Memorial Tree Program on campus, Larry Maginnis, was hesitant at first.
"I usually stop planting around Earth day (third week in April), because of the heat factor," he said. But the whole family was coming from far south Texas—McAllen. "Given the fact that the whole family would be here for UT Remembers, I knew I just had to make it happen," Maginnis said. And that he did.
After further consultation with the family, he found out that Tres had been a history major. He then located the building affiliated with that subject—Garrison Hall—and knew immediately where a tree could be planted. He remembers telling the family, "I've got a perfect spot and it could really use one in that location." It was settled.
On a 90-degree-plus day in brilliant sunlight and clear blue skies overhead, an 11-foot tall, 30-gallon southern live oak tree was planted on the north-east corner of the land the building sets on. Tres' family, alongside newly-made friends of others who had lost a loved one during the year, assisted and witnessed the planting of the tree.
As part of the UT Remembers ceremony, "memory sheets" are collected that family members have written. It is part of an annual record of the program and is included in the official university archives housed in the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History on campus. This ensures the name of each person will always be a part of the history of the university.
The first thing the Jones Family wrote following his name and the dates of his life, Jan. 11, 1991-Jan. 2, 2010, was:
"TRES JONES 'The eyes of Texas are upon you.' ... He bled orange! ... Kind, generous, energetic, enthusiastic, intelligent, handsome, hunter, fisherman, Varsity golfer, snow skier, wake boarder, dancer (his mother made him take ballroom lessons), polite. ... best friend, brother and most loved son!"
"UT Austin was the only school Tres wanted to attend," Mrs. Jones said. (Both Mr. and Mrs. Jones are UT graduates.) In Oct. '08 he had called his mom from high school when he received his class ranking—top 7% of his class. That guaranteed him a spot in the fall 2009 freshman class.
He told her, "Mom, I'm going to UT." She was driving at the time and remembers having to pull off the road. "I was crying so hard with such pride," she said. "My blessing was watching him attend the university he loved."
He pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. More than 25 of his pledge brothers plus friends from McAllen also attended the UT Remembers ceremony at 2 p.m.
"It is every parent's worst nightmare," Mrs. Jones said. "But today helped us tremendously to travel through this difficult journey. Tres’ Memorial Living Oak Tree will be a lifetime of his presence that we are going to cherish."
History Professors Cynthia Talbot and Alison Frazier taught Tres in their History 301F Premodern World class. It was a large lecture course, so they did not get the opportunity to know him well. But they do remember him speaking to them after class on several occasions. "We were both struck by his enthusiasm for the study of history, and his curiosity about the material before us," Frazier said. "He was smart and sensitive, and we were both terribly saddened by his death."
Advising Coordinator in History Nancy Sutherland also remembers him coming in for advising. "He made a good first impression," she said. "We were so sad to learn of his passing. The tree outside my window is a reminder that we must make every precious day count."
This is the 4,818 tree to be planted on campus—the last two numbers ending in 18. And Tres was an avid golfer. Now he has a memorial tree planted outside the building that he loved and learned so much about human beings before him.
Garrison Hall was built in 1926 and has always been home to the History Department. Although there are large live oaks on every side of the building, this particular corner had been barren of any tree. Maginnis explained that all newly planted trees are given extra care for the first three years until they become established. Eventually the university will install a plaque on campus listing where all tree memorials have been planted.
The entire History Department would like to express our sincere condolences to the Jones Family and thank them for beautifying the grounds surrounding the building in this loving remembrance of their son.
We would also like to express our sympathies to the families of other members of our community that we lost this year as well:
Shearer Davis "Dave" Bowman, professor, former associate chair and graduate advisor
Philip "Phil" Lloyd White, professor emeritus