Photo: Ann Borowski Longtime Brookwood supporter Linda Jones (right), shown this season with her husband and longtime Bronco coach Tom Jones, died early Thursday morning after battling an infection.
To many, Linda Jones was the voice that roused the crowd at Brookwood football games.
An Atlanta Falcons cheerleader from 1967-70, Jones took over the microphone briefly before kickoff to spell out "B-R-O-N-C-O-S" and root on her favorite team, the one whose offensive line coach is her husband, Tom Jones. But for those who only knew her as a voice, they truly missed out, her close friends said.
Jones passed away early Thursday after battling an infection in recent weeks. She was 64.
"That (cheer) was tradition," longtime Brookwood head football coach and athletic director Dave Hunter said. "She was a big part of bringing the Brookwood community together. Not just the cheers, but her attitude. Her hugging and kissing everyone, that was sincere. Everybody that met her, loved her. She was a genuine caring person. She leaves behind a tremendous legacy of how you ought to treat people."
Jones, a Decatur High School graduate, came to Brookwood in 1988 when her husband was hired as the offensive line coach, a position he still holds. Their sons Tommy and Phillip played offensive line at Brookwood and in college. Both followed their father into coaching --Tommy is the head coach at Lumpkin County and Phillip is the head coach at Banks County.
"She was the consummate cheerleader," Tommy Jones said of his mother. "She cheered everybody in everything that they did. She loved strong. She lived life to the fullest. She was the kind of person who would be in a room with 30 people and know how to make every one of them feel special. She never met a stranger. I'm just blessed beyond measure to have a mom who supported us in everything we did. It made you feel like you could conquer the world."
Jones' warm personality, highlighted by her frequent greetings of hugs and kisses, was a fixture from the early days of the Brookwood community to the present.
"All those years we played Brookwood, after she hugged all the Brookwood people, she came over and hugged me, win or lose," longtime Shiloh head football coach and athletic director Charlie Jordan said. "It didn't matter if she knew you for 20 or 30 years, or 20 or 30 minutes, she treated everyone the same way."
Jordan called Jones the "First Lady of Brookwood Football," and many others knew her as "Miss Linda" or "Momma Jones."
"She was the one person I always expected to see every time I came back to visit Brookwood for those huge hugs and kisses," former Brookwood, Georgia and NFL linebacker Rennie Curran said. "Her and her family have been such a blessing to me from Day 1. I'm so sad, but I know one day when we meet again in heaven she'll be waiting with those sweet hugs, kisses and that beautiful smile."
Jones' impact was deep in the Brookwood community, but also in the fraternity of local football coaches and their families. She was surrounded by flocks of fans in Bronco colors every Friday night, but always took time to visit with her friends on the opposing side.
"Linda Jones is one of the kindest, most loving women I have ever known," said current Brookwood head football coach Mark Crews, who was coached by Tom Jones as a high school senior and coached with him since the 1980s. "She had a gift for making everyone around her feel loved and special. Linda was undoubtedly the matriarch of our football family. Her legacy of love, kindness, hugs and kisses on the cheek will live on for many, many years in the hearts of the generations of young people who were fortunate enough to have known her. We have lost an extraordinary woman with an extraordinary spirit and we will all miss her terribly."
Jones was sick last week with what was thought to be the flu, but was rushed to the hospital last Saturday. A strep infection took over her major organs and eventually led to her passing.
The countless friendships she made over the years was pretty evident in the hospital. On Monday night, more than 100 people came to visit and show their support. Hunter said security had to come because there wasn't enough room for all the well-wishers.
"To know Linda Jones was truly to know life in the fullest," Brookwood athletic secretary Ann Smith said. "She leaves behind a legacy we would all strive to attain as was evidenced by the outpouring of love and support shown to her family in recent days. Her family was the center of her world, but she shared her friendship so openly with others in all paths of her life that it was impossible to know Linda and not be touched by her goodness."
Jones is survived by her husband of 41 years, Tom, and two sons, as well as five granddaughters, who knew her as Nana.
The family plans visitation Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m. at A.S. Turner and Sons Funeral Home at 2773 North Decatur Road in Decatur. A funeral service at First Baptist Church of Decatur is planned for Monday at 2 p.m.