Gordon R. Jones, a businessman who played a key role in the development of the Odyssey School, dies

Gordon R. Jones, a businessman who channeled his own struggle with dyslexia into the expansion of the Odyssey School, which helps students similarly challenged, died Friday of congestive heart failure at Gilchrist Center Towson.

The Monkton resident was 88.

“Gordon is Odyssey School,” said Marty Sweeney, head of school, who lives in Lutherville. “He had the vision for our school, found the land and donors, and went over the blueprint for our building. He wanted it to feel like a home; he made Odyssey possible.”

Gordon Robertson Jones, the son of H. Lawrence Jones Sr., founder of the Hudson Building Supply Co. in Timonium, and his wife, Helen Robertson Jones, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Guilford.

A 1948 graduate of St. Paul’s School for Boys, Mr. Jones enrolled at the University of Virginia, where he played varsity attackman and was captain of the 1952 national championship lacrosse team.

He was also a first team All-American and was the recipient in 1952 of the Turnbull Award for Outstanding Attackman, and was inducted into the University of Virginia’s Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2005.

After graduating from Virginia in 1952, he served as a lieutenant with the Marine Corps at Cherry Point, N.C.

He returned to Baltimore after being discharged from the Marines and went to work for his father’s firm. In the 1960s, he became a partner in Thurman Eastern Fireplace Co., a manufacturer of prefabricated fireplaces.

In the late 1970s, he sold out to his partner and became a commercial and residential developer in Baltimore and Howard counties.

He and his wife, the former Dreena Dillon, founded and operated the Jones Christmas Tree farm in 1978 on their Monkton farm.

As a young student, Mr. Jones struggled with dyslexia and “faced tremendous anxiety about not being able to learn like other kids,” wrote his son, Gordon B. “Gordy” Jones of Kitty Hawk, N.C., in a biographical profile of his father.

“It was the experience of facing this incredible adversity and pain that inspired Gordon to become involved with the Odyssey School,” his son wrote.

“Gordon shared his experiences with dyslexia and told his story, which energized people,” Ms. Sweeney said.

The Odyssey School’s origins go back to 1994, when six parents opened a school for dyslexic children in a four-story Roland Avenue mansion for 40 students and a dozen teachers.

As the school’s population grew, there was a pressing need for expansion, and by 2000, Odyssey announced that it was relocating the next year to a 42-acre site in Green Spring Valley, after receiving.a $2.8 million donation from 19 private investors, the Greenspring Investment Group LLC, that was used to purchase the land from St. Timothy’s School in Stevenson.

St. Timothy’s had wanted to sell about 80 acres to expand their endowment while developers, who raised the ire of neighbors, proposed building 63 homes on the property.

“ ‘It took serious convincing,’ said Jones, whose solution of donating part of the land to Odyssey School and using the other portion to build 19 luxury homes in a gated community pleased all three parties. ‘But when we get an idea, and we just do it,’ ” the newspaper reported.

“In Odyssey, he saw a place where students could feel at home — completely comfortable with who they are and how they learn,” his son wrote. “And more than anything, he saw the school he wished he’d had when he was a child,” his son wrote.

“He related to the children so thoroughly and he wanted a place that had evidenced based teaching so they could reach their full potential,” Ms. Sweeney said. “He wanted our kids to know they were people of promise.”

Mr. Jones took charge of the move to the new campus and even designed its building, and in recognition of his devotion to Odyssey, it is known as the Gordon R. Jones Hall.

Mr. Jones was an avid waterfowl hunter and fisherman. He also trained hunting dogs for friends.

“He was a world traveler,“ his son said. “He’d been out West, to Canada, Argentina and the Bahamas hunting and fishing.”

At Mr. Jones’ request, no services will be held; however, a celebration of life service will be held at 9 a.m. June 8 at Odyssey, 3257 Bridle Ridge Lane, Stevenson.

In addition to his wife of 42 years and his son, he is survived by two daughters, Stewart Jones of Rodgers Forge and Terry Stoltz of Kitty Hawk; and four grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Ann Patterson ended in divorce.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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