Denzil Eugene (Denny) Jones died April 25 at home from natural causes.
He was born Sept. 10, 1910, in Ione to Eugene Sullivan Jones and Ruth Baker. His mother died when Denny was 5 years old leaving him, his older brother, Harland, 7, and younger sister Mae, 3, to fend for themselves as their father worked on many different ranches around the Spray area. Mae went to live with a friend on an adjoining ranch, and Denny and Harlan lived with the buckaroos in the bunkhouse when their father was gone.
Denny’s father remarried when he was 7 years old.
Denny started working at an early age. His first job, at the age of 8, was to deliver wood to Spray with a team of horses. He loaded the wood, unloaded it and stacked it. There were times when he would be coming home in the dark with a bridge to cross, and he always wondered if he’d end up in the creek, but never did and always credited his horses to “knowing where they were going.”
When Denny was 14, the family moved to Prineville, a place Denny had only heard about. He was given a herd of 37 cattle and told to drive them from Spray to Prineville, a distance of 85 miles. It took him seven days, and when asked what he thought about on that trip, he said, “I wondered where the hell I was!” His dad informed him that there would be places to stay and buy meals along the way, but Denny barely managed to find something to eat every day.
Denny attended high school in Prineville. Every morning, he milked 32 cows, and then rode his horse seven miles to school. One morning it was 36 degrees below zero. He didn’t have any rubber galoshes (overshoes) and his feet were about to freeze. He came by a teepee, where a friend lived. Denny stopped and went in, no one was home but there was a fire going so he thawed out his feet and hands and went on to school. He was in the 10th grade when his father was asked if Denny could go on the race circuit caring for horses. There was always a need for money so a contract was signed (but never fulfilled in payment). He was glad to be rid of his living situation but was sorry he did not finish high school as he felt an education was essential.
During his racing career he lived in the boxcars with the horses, caring for them traveling from Vancouver, B.C., to Tijuana, Mexico. He exercised the horses, which eventually got him mounts at races. He was a successful jockey until, after getting two meals a day, he gained too much weight, making it difficult to make the 106-pound weight restriction.
Denny returned to Oregon working herding sheep in 1927 and 1928; however, he was too horsey to enjoy being a sheepherder so he then moved to Jonesboro Ranch working as a buckaroo. He eventually bought that ranch, which was his passion, and he received much enjoyment out of the ranch life and hard work.
He married Mildred Altnow in 1931 and together, they raised two children, Eugene and Karen. Denny and Mildred dedicated 67 years to each other throughout ranching and political endeavors.
Denny served as president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association from 1968 to 1969, he was director of the American Cattlemens’ Association, president of the Malheur Co. Livestock Association, director of the Pacific International Livestock Expo and president of the Malheur County Pioneer Association. He was also a member of the Public Land Council board, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Juntura School District, the Malheur Juvenile Council and the Agri-Business Council of Oregon. Denny served as a lobbyist for the Oregon Cattlemens’ Association and was a member of the BPOE and the Freemasons.
Denny was elected to the Oregon State Legislature in 1973, serving until 1999. During those 26 years, he served on the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, where he was co-chair, the Emergency Board, and the committees for agriculture, transportation and education.
He is survived by his companion, Fannie Myers; son, Eugene (Miriam) Jones of Ontario; daughter, Karen Dinsmore, of Ontario; grandchildren Dan (Donna) Jones, Greg (Teresa) Jones, Wes Jones, Rebecca Jones, Jennifer (Todd) Koch, Todd (Jan) Dinsmore, Cherie (Harry) Jaques, and Rodd (Karen) Dinsmore; 14 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
Services will be held May 3 at 2 p.m. at the Four Rivers Cultural Center, 676 SW Fifth Ave. in Ontario. There will be a fellowship immediately following at the Elks, 20 SW Third St. in Ontario.
The family requests any memorial contributions to be sent to the FFA Denny Jones Scholarship fund at Ontario FFA Alumni, 4865 John Day Highway, Vale, OR 97918 or Lienkaemper-Thomason Funeral Center, 78 NW First Ave., Ontario, OR 97914