The Downtown Mount Airy Main Oak Mini-Park groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday, with local officials praising Perry Robertson’s $45,000 donation in memory of World War II Navy veteran Carlos Warren Jones, in honor of the time they spent together when the lived in the old Blue Ridge Hotel.
The mini-park, which will sit on the corner of North Main and West Oak Streets in downtown Mount Airy, will occupy the same location where the Blue Ridge Hotel once stood. The park’s gazebo design pays tribute to the architecture of the Blue Ridge Hotel, with a turret on the gazebo mirroring the turret that was once on the corner of the hotel.
“It’s a beautiful day, and we are proud to be here for the groundbreaking of the park, but of course it always takes money, and here is our knight in shining armor, Perry Robertson, who donated $45,000,” Mayor Deborah Cochran announced, introducing Robertson to the crowd.
“I am awfully proud to donate this for Mount Airy,” Robertson shared. “I am doing it for Mount Airy, and I hope people will be able to enjoy it for a long time.”
Mount Airy Downtown Inc. President Ted Ashby reminded everyone not to forget the sacrifices Carlos Jones made for this country during World War II.
“Just imagine, two young men [Robertson and Jones], working and making their way downtown…and Jones, sacrificing his life to fight for our country. It is that type of spirit we want to pay tribute to. This is an example of a public-private partnership to make Mount Airy a better place. This is an excellent contribution.”
In attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony were members of Carlos Warren Jones’ family, including his youngest brother, Dennis “Dink” Jones, who traveled from Florida for the groundbreaking ceremony, as well as Jones’ nephew Leo Warren Jones, who shares his middle name. Leo also brought his wife Carolyn and their son, Brad Jones, who bears the middle name of Warren — one he and wife Brandy passed down to his son, Leo’s grandson, Brayden Warren Jones. Carlos Jones’ niece Vickie Jones Williams was also there, with her husband Elwood Williams.
“Carlos was my uncle,” Leo Jones told the crowd. “We have thanked Perry [Robertson] numerous times and from Perry we found out what an uncle we would have had.”
“I never knew Carlos when I was growing up,” his niece Vickie Jones Williams said. “He gave up his life to be in the Navy at a time when my dad was in the South Pacific. Two of the other brothers were in Germany. I want to thank Perry and all those who made it possible. This is such a wonderful tribute to my uncle.”
“We look forward to opening the park in August, as long as the weather stays nice,” Ashby shared.
Robertson spoke highly of his good friend Carlos Jones after the ceremony: “Me and Carlos were teenage boys and we lived uptown in the Blue Ridge Hotel. Each of us had a room here. I worked at the old Grand Theatre and he worked at Snappy Lunch, and we paid our expenses and lived in the hotel,” Robertson explained.
“When this idea [of building the mini-park] came up, I thought it would be a great opportunity to memorialize my friend, because we were just like brothers. I read articles in the newspaper about it, and how they couldn’t come up with all the money for the park, so I decided to donate.”
Dennis “Dink” Jones, youngest brother of Carlos Warren Jones, said he was “dumbfounded” when he heard about the donation Robertson made in Carlos Jones’ honor. “To have a friend like Carlos and Perry…you just don’t find true friends like that anymore,” Jones said. The pair have become fast friends, Robertson and Jones, talking “almost every other day” on the phone.
“It is so phenomenal that something like this could happen. My family didn’t even know about the connection [between Robertson and Jones] …for a true friend to do that after 69 years, it’s just phenomenal,” Jones remarked.
“It’s like a gift from heaven.”
Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 and on Twitter @MountAiryJess.