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Lawmakers fund statue of trailblazing Roosevelt veteran

George A. Jones of Roosevelt speaks before the

George A. Jones of Roosevelt speaks before the Nassau County Legislature on Monday, July 13, 2015 in Mineola, as the county lawmakers approve funding for the creation of a statue to honor him. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Few have statues erected in their likeness. Even fewer get to see their elected leaders vote to commission that statue.

"Obviously, it was unique," George Jones, 92, of Roosevelt, said after watching the Nassau County Legislature approve spending of $22,000 to fund the monument to him at the American Legion's Post 1957 in his hometown. "It's nice to know while you're still alive what people think about you."

County leaders, spurred to action by a longtime Roosevelt resident, say Jones' resume warrants the special treatment.

He enlisted in the New York National Guard at age 16, in 1939, and after joining the U.S. Army, fought in World War II and the Korean War. He was a New York City firefighter from 1947 to 1967, when few African Americans were in the ranks.

Jones, who continued serving in the National Guard until 1970 -- he was promoted to brigadier general in retirement -- also worked for Nassau County for 30 years, ending in 2000 as director of equal opportunity employment and minority business enterprise officer.

"When you think of General Jones, you think of class," said Legis. Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown), a longtimefriend of Jones.

Sheldon Parrish, vice president of Roosevelt's Chamber of Commerce, began the push for a statue of Jones by approaching the American Legion.

"He was a trailblazer, first in the military, then in the fire department, and then in county government," Parrish, 56, said. "To be able to hit those particular areas and keep your mettle, that is a tribute to the man."

The $22,000 will come from Nassau's community revitalization program, which uses borrowed funds for small capital projects. County officials say they remember no other case of funding a statue for a living person.

"It'll be a symbol to young people," said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), who represents Roosevelt and helped secure the money, which will also pay for a flagpole, lighting and a walkway.

Parrish said the work to design and install the statue could now take as long as eight months. He worked with urgency to secure the funding, he said, because "I believe in people smelling their flowers while they live."

On Monday, Jones, in his dress green uniform, stood before county lawmakers and said thank you -- while adhering to a legislative rule limiting speakers to three minutes.

"Being an old soldier," he said, "one of the things I've been imbued with is, when you speak, stand up to be seen, speak up to be heard, and be as brief as you possibly can sharing with folks -- in three minutes -- 92 years of your life's experiences."

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