Bud Jones died on Dec. 15. He is remembered for his kindness towards everyone.
Bud Jones was someone to everyone, his friend Jordan Klusmeyer said.
“It didn't matter if you had not seen him in a while, if he knew you needed him, he dropped what he was doing to help,” Klusmeyer said.
Lester Darnell Jones Jr., of Boonville, known as “Bud,” died Dec. 15 while officiating a basketball game in Warrensburg. He was 32, but the impact of his life outstretched his years.
Bud was well known in central Missouri as a sports official, making calls in basketball and umpiring softball for more than a decade.
“It's not every day you can say someone as young as 32 has made such a big impact in your life,” said Roberta Sells, who has been president of the Prairie Home Summer Ball Association for the past two years.
Bud always had the biggest smile and the best sense of humor. He was a huge help to the Prairie Home association as an umpire, Sells said, but what really drew her attention was his compassion and his love of the children and the game.
“There are kids of all ages from our small town who will always remember and look up to Bud,” Sells said, “and even strive to be someone that younger kids can look up to, just like Bud.”
As his health teacher and basketball coach, Fred Smith knew Bud when he was in middle school. Bud never knew a stranger, Smith said. He was unassuming and judged people only by their character, and he always brought joy to those around him. He said Bud umpired and officiated because he wanted to make children better people and athletes, and he did.
The last email Smith got from Bud was the first one he got congratulating his Central Methodist University baseball team for qualifying for the Avista-NAIA World Series in 2013. Bud signed off as he always did, “Yours in sportsmanship, Bud.”
Bud’s commitment to helping others didn’t end with his death. Since his youth, the hometown hero had considered becoming an organ donor when he died. Smith said he had many conversations with Bud about it in middle school. As a teenager, he’d decided to give everything in the end, Smith said. When he checked on Dec. 18, Bud’s bodily donation already had directly helped 52 people.
Evan Melkersman, who grew up and went to school with Bud, said he was kind and good-hearted toward everyone, just because it was the right thing to do.
“You just felt better being around Bud,” Melkersman said. “He was always optimistic, and he had a really unique ability to make other people feel that.”
When Central Missouri Community Action needed volunteers to judge a barbecue-contest fundraiser for its Head Start program, Bud was one of the first volunteers. After the 2014 contest, Bud told Edward Lang of the Boonville Daily News that no one was perfect, so he gave the barbecuers a 9.9 out of 10 overall.
He never had a bad word to say about anyone, Melkersman said. Bud briefly wrote a column for the Daily News in 2014, filled only with praise for local shops and restaurants. He wrote four, glowing reviews for Snoddy’s Store, 87 Diner, The Phoenix and Pirate’s Cove. The employees of Snoddy’s Store, Bud wrote, “are pretty awesome and are always smiling.”
Kim Pirtle first met Bud in 1999, when he was in 7th grade and she “made the wise decision to student teach here in Boonville.”
Pirtle, now director of bands for Boonville Schools, said Bud’s smile and humor filled the hallways and band room of Laura Speed Elliot Middle School.
Steve Litwiller, who also taught Bud in band, said he changed people’s lives for the better, no matter where he was. Other band directors told Litwiller they remembered how Bud made everyone he spoke to feel important and noticed.
The last time Litwiller spoke to Bud, it seemed like he had found his calling in officiating, in which he took great pride, Litwiller wrote in prepared remarks he was unable to deliver at Bud’s celebration of life. The outpouring of grief over Bud’s death, from area coaches, athletes and everyone else he met, showed how much joy he brought to people in life, he said.
A GoFundMe page set up to pay funeral expenses had raised more than $12,000 by Thursday. Any money raised beyond the costs will go toward a softball scholarship, the page states. Donations can also be left at Alliant Bank, 1910 Main St., Boonville, according to the page.
A Facebook group, This One’s for Bud, has been set up for people to share their memories of his life.