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Jones, Robert (Bob) (1946–2013)

by Leon Bren and Peter Fagg

[Robert] Bob Jones passed away recently as a result of a cancer linked to mesothelioma.

He was the son of Nancy and Keith Jones, and grew up with his sister, Ann, in the Heidelberg area. We first met him as one of a group of young students starting their Diploma in Forestry at the Victorian School of Forestry at Creswick in 1965. He thrived in this environment, being handy at debating and football among other extra-curricular skills, and graduated three years later. He then completed a degree in forestry at the University of Melbourne in the years 1969–70.

Once he had completed his Diploma, he started work as a cadet forester with the Forests Commission Victoria. This was mainly mapping of mountain ash forests east of Melbourne, in which Bob proved himself a highly skilled air-photo- interpreter and field-mapper. We thought it was glamorous and exciting work because of the remote locations we got to. We had a little Bell 47 helicopter to help in the mapping so we all thought that was pretty nifty; it was not until later that we realised just how hard that engine worked to keep the pilot and two mappers above the trees. After one reconnaissance working out of Marysville, he stopped at the local milk-bar. There he struck up a conversation with a student teacher, Mary Perry, who was helping behind the counter. One thing led to another and they were married at Marysville in December, 1970 after Bob had finished his forestry science degree.

After two years working in forestry at Marysville, Bob was appointed as manager of the Mt Buller Alpine Resort, then operated by the Forests Commission. This rapid rise reflected his administrative abilities and professionalism. On the positive side it developed in the family a love of skiing, but on the negative side it ensured long, long hours of work to “get the job done.” Five years later Bob then moved to the National Parks Service with another promotion to become District Superintendent of South Gippsland National Parks, with the iconic Wilson’s Promontory Park under his direct care. Again he thrived in this, with his administrative side vying with the “action-man” side of day-to-day park management

His managerial talents and ability in negotiation were recognized by more promotion to senior tasks, the next being CEO of the Falls Creek Alpine Resort in 1982. This was a time when the “Alpine Resorts Commission” was wresting control of the various resorts from recalcitrant Government agencies that claimed historic ownership. Perhaps showing a dangerous independence of mind, Bob purchased a house at Tawonga South (near Mt Beauty) without his family seeing it. In his defence however, the house had just come on the market, was one of the few available, had a beautiful view of Mt Bogong, and it is still the family home.

The years at Falls Creek were absorbing—the resort was expanding, commercial activities were on an ever-growing scale, and there was lots of activity establishing and grooming skiable slopes and bringing the village to an international standard of facilities. Bob’s work set Falls Creek on its current path as a major alpine resort in Australia.

These were rewarding and busy years for Bob and Mary; they made many new friends and, along the way their children David (1972), twins Lindley and Leanne (1974), and Roslyn (1983) appeared. Mary also was developing her career as a teacher and her skills as a horticulturist and they also found time to run a small nursery.

In 1996 Jones moved back into Parks Victoria from the turmoil of the Alpine Resorts Commission to become the first Chief Ranger of the Victorian section of the Alpine National Park, working out of Bright. As always, his job had many challenges—implementing the National Park plan, establishing walking tracks, building visitor facilities, finding lost walkers, resolving the many conflicts inherent in large, multi-purpose parks, and dealing with the ever-present issues of fires and alpine grazing. Jones was a natural at negotiating in these tasks, and his colleagues reflect warmly on the mentoring, experience, and wisdom inherent in his approach. Typically, difficult issues would be left for Jones to resolve, with his quiet smile a formidable weapon in his armoury.

In 1998 he moved to become a “special projects” person with Parks Victoria, working on the multiple issues which affect large national parks such as cultural heritage, flood recovery, and rehabilitation after bushfires. He was particularly involved with and passionate about the complex issues associated with aboriginal culture—an area in which he developed considerable expertise. He ultimately retired from full-time work in 2001 but continued work as a consultant. During this time he had particular involvement with the Aboriginal community and the Alps Aboriginal Groups, forming new friendships in these roles.

In 2010 Jones’ persistent cough was diagnosed as mesothelioma associated with past exposure to asbestos. He was aware that there could only be one outcome from this disease but bore the diagnosis with grace and stoicism. During this time he revelled in being able to participate in outback travel and day-to-day life with Mary, and was pleased to be able to participate in the wedding of daughter Roslyn in May this year. His health suddenly deteriorated in August, and he asked to be released from hospital so that he could die at home; doubtless the spectacular view of the Kiewa Valley and Mt Bogong out of the front window helped his spirits.

Bob’s funeral, held at Mt Beauty on 7th Sept 2013, was attended by a large crowd of family, friends and former colleagues, whose eulogies were testament to a great father, family-man, brother and work colleague.

Bob is survived by his wife Mary, children David, Lindley, Leanne, and Roslyn, sister Ann, and 10 grandchildren.

Original publication

  • Forester, vol 56, no 4, December 2013, pp 28-29

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Leon Bren and Peter Fagg, 'Jones, Robert (Bob) (1946–2013)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/jones-robert-bob-18345/text29974, accessed 25 November 2017.

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