Eric Jones loved anything to do with the water.
When they were children, Herndon-area resident Matt Hollinger remembers regularly playing with his friend Eric Jones in the Jones family boat — even when it wasn’t on the water.
“He was just so obsessed with water in general,” Hollinger said, “we used to play around in the boat in the garage, pretending that we were sailing.”
Eric Jones died on the afternoon of Friday, July 13, when he lost control of his car and struck a tree at the intersection of West Ox Road and Monroe Street. He was 23.
A student of Northern Virginia Community College, Westfield High School graduate, an avid soccer player and a Redskins fan, Jones was remembered and laid to rest by family and friends in the Herndon area on July 16.
“He’s one that had a zest for life … and wanted to live his life to the fullest everyday,” said his mother, Patty Jones. “He was always concerned with other people and would always be there for you with a smile.”
HIS CONCERN FOR OTHERS and laid-back look on life had always been the most apparent feature of Eric Jones, according to neighbor Jeff Collins, 22. Collins first met Eric Jones when the two had the same baby-sitter growing up in their neighborhood.
“He was one of those people who always wanted to know how you were doing,” Collins said. “He would take interest in whatever it was that was going on, when he would come over, he would always talk to my parents. He just loved people, and that was always something that stood out to me.”
In particular, Eric Jones loved children. A photo of Eric playing in the snow with her two toddler-aged children was one of the strongest memories held by family friend and 18-year neighbor Kim McLean. Eric Jones had been childhood friends with McLean’s son, Ryan.
“He would call me at least once a week and ask how the kids were, ask how Mr. McLean was,” she said. “So in a way, he did see us kind of as his surrogate family.”
WHILE ERIC JONES was still sampling different classes at Northern Virginia Community College to find out what he wanted to do, he had one passion that did not fail to reveal itself to all who knew him: the beach.
“Any beach was fine with him, as long as there were palm tress and water, he was happy,” said Patty Jones. He loved the beach so much that he spent several months in the Florida Keys living with a family friend, she added.
And he had a passion for sports and fitness. His undying belief in a Redskins Super Bowl victory — even in the face of insurmountable odds — always cheered up the most disappointed football fan, said Collins.
A veteran area soccer player who once played for the Herndon Hornets travel soccer team, Eric Jones had also harbored a dream of one day playing soccer for D.C. United, Hollinger said. Eric Jones had even tried in recent months to lure Hollinger, a former Hornets teammate, to take a shot at becoming professional soccer players together, he added.
“I never played soccer, but he was terrific at it,” said Collins, “he was one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
THE ABILITY TO SEE the good in situations and infuse any gathering with energy were two of Eric Jones’ gifts to those close to him, said Dianna Deveney, a fellow Westfield graduate and former girlfriend.
“He was always the life of the party … he always got a smile out of everyone,” Deveney said. “Every time I got upset or if I was in a bad mood, I knew I could go over to his house and he’d always be there to say something or do something to cheer you up.”
And while he faced problems in his own life, it was the people around him that seemed to most concern her son, said Patty Jones.
“He was always so concerned about other people and helping them be happy and confident in themselves,” she said.
“He always paid attention,” said Deveney, “a lot of people come and go, but with Eric, we were always there for each other.”