Even while in the hospital, Pat Jones spoke of returning to her life's work - working with children.
For about a quarter-century, she ran the Augusta Youth Center, mentoring thousands of children, but on Wednesday she died after being hospitalized for a year.
"As far as youth, she's always been about kids," said her son, Vincent McKinney. "That was her love, and she did exactly what she loved."
His mother began a youth group in a housing project before establishing the youth center on Watkins Street 25 to 30 years ago, Mr. McKinney said.
"For the community as a whole, it's going to be a huge loss," he said.
The youth center served low-income families, providing after-school programs and tutoring.
Ms. Jones was known around the state for her contributions to children and the community, so much so that Mr. McKinney said he's keeping the large number of mourners in mind as he makes funeral arrangements.
Tyrone Butler saw firsthand what she did for her community. The executive director of the Augusta Mini Theatre said they called each other brother and sister and shared their struggles in operating nonprofit organizations.
Ms. Jones was tough on children, going straight to school to keep them in line, and they would later give her a hug. She was hard on them, but the first to defend them.
"If anybody downed them, she would go to battle," Mr. Butler said.
Upon learning of her death, he said he was "devastated."
"She was a real, real friend. It brought water to my eyes," Mr. Butler said.
Less than two weeks ago, he visited her in the hospital, he said. She was still smiling and spoke of returning to her work with children.
"Her first loves were her children and her grandchildren," Mr. Butler said.
"But those children at the youth center were like hers."
Stopping by the center Wednesday, he was surprised to see it still going, and he hopes the community will continue to support it.
She worked with thousands of children, Mr. Butler said. Her son hopes to emulate her.
"I'm just hoping at some point in my life I can make an impact," Mr. McKinney said.
Ms. Jones is also survived by five grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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