Retired Richmond County educators Roosevelt and Edna Jones had hearts of gold and a love for life that made everyone feel special, according to friends and neighbors mourning the Hephzibah couple.
Roosevelt was a basketball enthusiast and Edna a skilled gardener, and both were remembered for their warm and welcoming personalities.
“It’s a shame something like this would happen to a very sweet, religious couple who loved everyone they met,” said Greg Butler, who knew the Joneses for 25 years. “They truly had a heart of gold.”
He spoke with “Brother Roosevelt,” as he called him, Sunday to update him on the various paint, tile and fencing jobs he arranged for him around the neighborhood.
Roosevelt was cutting his front yard at the time. On Thursday, a makeshift memorial of flowers, cards and balloons sat on that spot where they spoke.
Friends and neighbors were struggling to piece together the grisly details of the couple’s slayings, and the possibility that it came at the hands of one of their sons, Ryan Jones, a graduate of Hephzibah High School.
The third victim, Ryan Jones’ brother Russell was a sophomore at Fort Valley State University majoring in health and physical education.
Roosevelt worked as a science teacher at Tutt Middle School from 1981 to 2008. Edna was an elementary school teacher who worked at several Richmond County schools from 1980 to 2009 but spent most of her career at Jamestown Elementary School.
For 40 years, they were members of Augusta Deliverance Evangelistic Church, where their children also attended.
Billy Murphy, who taught physical education and math and coached sports at Tutt from 1977 to 2000, said Roosevelt was a likeable man who would “do anything in the world for you.”
“Kids took to him like a magnet, and he felt like they were his kids,” Murphy said. “He was always willing to help them.”
Murphy said the Augusta education community is heartbroken.
“It’s really turned my world upside down,” Murphy said. “I called a lot of my friends. We’ve been talking on the phone and couldn’t believe this has happened.”
Neighbors watched police work from afar Thursday as crime scene investigators continued detective work at the family’s two-story home at 3729 Pinnacle Place Drive.
Neighbor Thirsteen Bing had children who went to Jamestown Elementary, where Edna taught, and said her daughter played recreational basketball with the Joneses’ daughter growing up.
Bing said she last spoke to Edna on Sunday. As usual, the conversation was from a distance, as Bing walked her dog and Edna tended to her yard. The families often traded gardening tips.
“Edna was an especially helpful lady,” Bing said. “The two of them together were just genuinely good people.”
Neighbor Walter Woodard said the couple’s daughter was getting married in Atlanta this month, possibly as early as this weekend.
“This is very heartbreaking,” Woodard said. “The family was always cordial, their children well raised.”