Ella Jones, 104, who scorned modern appliances in home

June 01, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Ella Rhodes Jones, a centenarian who shunned modern appliances and lived alone in her East Baltimore rowhouse from age 66 to 102, died of an undetermined cause Wednesday at the Genesis Eldercare Center on Bellona Avenue in Homeland. She was 104.

Mrs. Jones was a familiar sight to neighbors near her home in the 1300 block of E. Biddle St. in the Oliver community, either sitting on her marble steps or routinely sweeping the walk in front of her home.

"She sure kept it neat," said Bertina Chapple, who lived next door. "She was always pleasant to talk to."

Rodney Cartell, another neighbor, said, "She was a fixture here.

She was an amazing lady. If she didn't tell you, I don't think anyone would have known she was past 100. She moved a little slow sometimes, but for someone 100, any kind of movement is good."

Mrs. Jones never used appliances such as toasters, washing machines or percolators. Instead, she browned her bread in a frying pan, boiled water for coffee and most often used a washboard to clean her clothes.

For her 100th birthday, family members gave her a color television set.

"We had to get one that was simple to operate. She didn't want remote control," said Ruth Watkins, a great-niece. "She was just a very independent person who cared for herself just fine. Nothing seemed to bother her."

The former Ella Rhodes, who was born in Baltimore, married Daniel Jones in 1915, and the couple lived at several East Baltimore locations before moving to the Oliver Street house in 1935. Mr. Jones died in 1958. The couple had no children. She moved into a nursing home two years ago.

In the 1920s, Mrs. Jones worked as an elevator operator at Johns Hopkins Hospital and later as a seamstress at the former Rutledge Pajama Factory in South Baltimore.

Friends remember the seemingly fragile, jovial woman sitting on her front stoop on warm evenings until well after dark, unconcerned about increasing crime in the area.

"It was probably because her house was hot, and she probably didn't have a fan. And an air conditioner was out of the question," said Winston McKoy, a neighbor. "She just remembered how the neighborhood used to didn't have problems. That's how she knew the neighborhood, and she wasn't willing to change her lifestyle because of crime."

But, in fact, Mrs. Jones did have a fan one of the few appliances she allowed herself, Ms. Watkins said. She also had a portable space heater, which typically went unused in the winter.

"The fan got used, but the heater was just there," Ms. Watkins said. "It's around here someplace, unused."

Funeral services are scheduled for 11: 30 a.m. today at the Centennial-Caroline Street United Methodist Church, 1029 E. Monument St.

She is survived by four nieces, Clara Adams, Ethel Richardson, Margaret Johnson and Ella Parrier, all of Baltimore; and many great-nieces and great-nephews.

Pub Date: 6/01/96

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