Latrobe's Zillah Jones has combined faith, hot dogs and hard work in a life of service

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Home > Media > News > Latrobe's Zillah Jones has combined faith, hot dogs and hard work in a life of service
Latrobe's Zillah Jones has combined faith, hot dogs and hard work in a life of service
Zillah and Tom Jones of Latrobe

A conversation with Zillah Jones produces fascinating insights into community, sporting and, especially, Catholic Church-related events in the Latrobe area over much of the past century.

Mrs Jones, 90, has a lively mind, a quick wit and an encyclopaedic knowledge, gleaned through her extensive years of community involvement.

Mersey Level parish priest Fr Mike Delaney has described Mrs Jones as a legend of the parish while the Mayor of Latrobe, Peter Freshney, has praised Mrs Jones for her ‘valuable involvement and tireless service to our community’.

The Latrobe Council recognised Mrs Jones for her community service, including 52 years with Meals on Wheels, as well as many years supporting the Latrobe Senior Citizens’ Club, Latrobe Football Club and St Patrick’s Church at Latrobe.

Mrs Jones is typically modest about her efforts, saying that many others had done as much or more than she had.

With a merry twinkle, she related the time she was sitting at home and her Meals on Wheels organiser rang to ask her if she had had lunch yet. When she replied that she had, her boss said, ‘Well, the old people haven’t!’

“It was the only time I forgot in all those years,” Mrs Jones recalled.

“Meals on wheels would be the most rewarding work that anyone could do.”

Her Meals on Wheels volunteering included meal delivery and organising four delivery groups. She enjoyed the camaraderie with other volunteers and having a talk and a laugh with the many local characters who were meal recipients.

Mrs Jones was treasurer of the senior citizens’ group for ten years, was made a life member and is still on the board. She is also a life member of the footy club, where she volunteered for 40 years and earned a reputation as the best hot dog seller the club ever had.

Her involvement with the church is life-long. She has a deep and abiding faith.

Her mother, Ruth Butler, was the church organist for 50 years and family, church, faith, school and community events are deeply entwined in her memories.

“[As a congregation] we did a lot of catering and fairs and things like that,” Mrs Jones said.

“We had a good group of people.

“When Fr [Don] Shaw was here, he decided we needed a new school so we even made bricks for the school and we would carry them and stack them to dry out.

“He was a wonderful worker.”

The new school was built in 1939 using volunteer labour. (The Sisters of Mercy ran the school from 1892 to 1992.)

In those days, the parish priest was based at Latrobe and Fr Shaw’s stunning garden was renowned throughout the district.

Mrs Jones spoke fondly of the many priests and archbishops she had met over the years, and of some dramatic moments in the life of the church in Latrobe.

She cried when she saw the fire-ravaged St Patrick’s Church after an arson attack in December 2000.

“We were all devastated,” she recalled as she looked through photos of the damaged building.

“It took about 12 months to rebuild and we celebrated Mass in the Church of England during that time.”

Mrs Jones was educated at St Patrick’s School at Latrobe and then at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Devonport.

She left school at 14 and started work in clerical and administration fields.

Mrs Jones has lived all her life in the same street in Latrobe. She married her husband, Tom, at St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Latrobe, in 1953. He was a butcher and horse trainer.

They have two sons, two grandsons and two adored great-grandchildren.

“The church has been fantastic and we have had some wonderful priests,” she said.

“Faith is so important. I don’t know where we would have been without it.”