After nearly three decades of working for the Harford County school system, Leonard Jones is fulfilling a lifelong dream. Two years ago, at his retirement party, Jones vowed to spend the rest of his life fishing and boating.
"It's something I've always dreamed of doing, and now I'll have the opportunity to make that dream come true," the 55-year-old Forest Hill resident told a crowd of more than 100 friendsand educators attending the event.
Nearly everyone who retires makes a similar declaration. Jones isone of the few living up to his word.
From early May until late October, Jones spends at least two days a week fishing in his 23-foot Thunderbird. When he's not fishing or helping his wife, Sandra, with the chores, Jones volunteers his services to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
A graduate of Harford County schools and Morgan State University, Jones earned a reputation as dedicated educator, excellent administrator and a strict disciplinarian during his years as a teacherand assistant principal at several county schools.
Many of his colleagues didn't know his true love was fishing.
Jones has been hooked on the hobby ever since his father took him fishing in the LittleGunpowder Falls at Route 7, a half mile from his family's home in the small rural community of Mandeville.
"When I first moved to Harford County, my dad wanted to take me fishing and now I understand why," said Jones, who was born in Baltimore in 1936 and moved here at age 7. "It was his way of giving me something I could latch on to, and he was right.
"We fished under the old bridge, where we caught rockfish, yellow perch, sunfish and even shad. Every time I got the chance, especially after a heavy rain, I would walk the half mile down Route 7 to the bridge and go fishing.
"I received lots of spankings for sneaking off from the house and going fishing when I wasn't supposed to."
Jones' love of fishing eventually motivated him to purchase his first boat in 1969, a 18-foot Whirlwind, manufactured by Sears, Roebuck & Co. Three years later he bought his present boat.
The boat and his work in the Harford County school system led Jones to join the Coast Guard in 1972.
"I gave up bowling three nights a weekand joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary mainly because of my conscience," he said. "At the time, I was in charge of Aberdeen High School's buildings and leased them out to outside organizations.
"One year, the Coast Guard Auxiliary held its boating course at the school. Naturally, having a boat of my own, I figured I would take the course. While taking the course, I began to look at the techniques and styles of teaching and raised a few minor complaints.
"When I discovered the instructors mainly consisted of 'old salts' with lots of boating experience who volunteered their time but had no formal education as teachers, I felt obligated to volunteer my services as an educator."
Every weekend, despite high winds, rough seas or bad weather, members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary can be found patrolling Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, performing duties their manual describes as the "four cornerstones."
Members respond to distress calls, help disabled boaters, join the U.S. Coast Guard in search-and-rescue operations, and offer free safe-boating courses throughout Harford County and Maryland.
In addition, members provide free courtesy marine examinations, or safety inspections of private boats. The inspections areconducted at public launch ramps, local marinas and at times at shopping center parking lots.
For more information on the Coast Guard Auxiliary or classes, call division Capt. Charles Shadle at 838-2265.