Since Blake Jones’ death on July 10, some family members have obtained tattoos depicting a robot figure that was a favorite doodle of Blake’s.

His family and friends want Springfield neighbors to know and remember more about Blake Jones than only the grim fact that he was the city’s 11th traffic fatality of this year.

Blake, they say, was much more than an 18-year-old motorcyclist who, a half-hour after sunset on Sunday, July 10, crested a hill in the 300 block of East Kearney Street to suddenly find the westbound lanes blocked by a disabled vehicle from a previous incident, a tow truck maneuvering to haul that vehicle away, and a police car.

With no visible warning prior to topping the rise, and with insufficient time to stop at the speed he was traveling, Blake braked but the bike skidded into a utility pole and then slammed into the vehicle that was being towed. 

He died at the scene.

That much is known to anyone who read or listened to local news reports the next day. But there is much more to the too-brief life story of Blake Kristopher Allen Jones, say those who knew and loved him.

Blake had graduated from Parkview High School just two months before. He was looking toward the future, maybe military service first, then perhaps a career in the field of physical therapy.

Blake Jones as a pupil at Springfield’s Jeffries Elementary School. (Family photo)

He was an emerging artist. He was fascinated with machines and with home construction techniques, and was quick to learn how to build, repair and maintain. 

“But Blake’s real legacy was helping others,” says his grandfather, Jay Jones, whom Blake called “Pop.” “He was always eager to help whoever he thought needed it.”

Blake’s mom, Deanna Jones, sitting at the kitchen counter of her southwest Springfield home, agrees: “I can’t tell you how many times he would come home and say something like ‘I just helped a guy change his tire…’”

Her fiance, Matt Addler, finishes the sentence: “…Or that he’d helped someone whose car had broken down push it out of the road and onto a parking lot, or helped them get it started back up and then followed them home to make sure they made it all the way.”

“There was one time,” Deanna recalls, “he even came home to get some tools so he could go back and finish helping somebody he’d come upon by the side of the road.”

Jay Jones and his wife, Juanita — “Nana” to Blake — live in St. Charles but have a place at Lake of the Ozarks. “He would mow the lawn at our lake house when we couldn’t get away from work,” says Juanita. “Blake always wanted to help. He was ready and willing to go there on weekends and do whatever needed doing.

“And he was thoughtful. He respected people. He knew what to say and how to act no matter who he was with,” his grandmother adds.

Jay cites a small example: “Blake would jog up ahead to the door of a store and hold it open for somebody he didn’t even know, and then keep holding it for us to walk in.”

That brings a smile from his mother. “He would never let me open a car door,” she says softly.

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As a single mom for several years, Deanna says she and Blake had a special relationship. He was the eldest of four siblings — his brothers Connor and Gavin are 15 and 13 respectively, and sister Avery is 17 months old.

“For a long time Blake felt like he had to be the man of the household,” says Jay. “He always looked out for his brothers; he would take care of them when his mom was at work.”

“And when Avery was just a baby,” recalls Deanna, “if she would be crying, Blake would swoop in and pick her up, and they’d watch YouTube videos about cars together. She would quiet right down.”

When Blake himself was a baby — for his first two years, in fact — he and Deanna lived with her parents. “My mom quit her job when Blake was born, and she stayed home to take care of him so I could finish high school,” Deanna recounts. Juanita took Blake to school twice a day so Deanna could breast-feed him. 

Blake is only one of Juanita’s 10 grandchildren, but he was special because of those early years.

“People said Blake was my favorite, that I spoiled him,” she says, laughing. “My words to that always were, ‘He was well-loved!’ Blake was easy to love. He gave the best hugs; he squeezed you real tight. When Deanna moved out with him, it about killed me.”

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Beneath his graduation robe at Parkview High School in May, Blake Jones wore a Spider-Man-inspired T-shirt. (Family photo)

‘He was always making people laugh’

As Blake grew older — and taller, to about 6-foot-3 — he bonded with other family members, especially cousins Dakota and Madison Zobrist, plus Madison’s boyfriend Marshall Wilson. They hung out together, rode bikes and skateboards together, and watched in amazement as Blake, who was a huge fan of comic book hero Spider-Man, used his height and strength to scale obstacles Spidey-style.

“I tried climbing with him one time, on an abandoned building,” says Wilson. “But I chickened out. I didn’t go all the way up like he did.”

The loss of Blake hit Wilson and the cousins hard. They and others in recent days have gotten tattoos of a robot-like stick figure that Blake liked to doodle. Not that there is any likelihood that Blake would be forgotten without such reminders.

“Blake really was special,” says Wilson. “He was the kind of person who, when you saw him, he just brightened your day up. He was always making people laugh, always offering to help. He did that on the regular. And he was very loyal to his friends.”

High on Blake’s roster of friends was Kody Moore. Blake had met Moore when they were classmates at Jeffries Elementary. Moore also just graduated this spring from high school, but from Hillcrest.

The two teens bonded over shared experiences as sons of single moms. “None of our other friends went through that in their lives like Blake and I did,” Moore explains. “It made us closer. We clicked. We matched.”

Moore uses several adjectives — kind, funny, smart, goofy, energetic, loving, and especially brother — to describe Blake. “He was my brother,” Moore says solemnly. Not “like a brother,” he corrects for the record. “No,” he insists, “Blake was my brother!”

‘Blake always had a soft spot’

Moore says that when he and Blake went on center-city skateboarding expeditions, he often witnessed Blake’s empathy and generosity. 

“There were countless times when we’d just stop and talk to homeless people, and we shared pizza with a lot of homeless people. Even if we didn’t have anything to share, we’d sit down and just chat. Blake always had a soft spot for that kind of thing.

“He could always make anyone laugh. He could catch a vibe anywhere.”

Deanna and fiance Matt shared a workplace, the T-Mobile call center, until Matt was laid off one week after Blake’s fatal wreck.

“When I came into the picture about two and a half years ago, I just started trying to be the best father figure I could to Blake,” Matt says. The two teamed up on home projects ranging from stringing Christmas lights to refinishing floors and doors. This spring Matt helped Blake buy a car, a metallic gray 2018 Dodge Challenger. 

And then there were video games, especially the popular “Forza” car-racing series and the “Call of Duty” mock combat scenarios. 

Others had tried to join with Blake in the games, but couldn’t keep up with him. “I tried to play ‘Call of Duty’ with him one time,” says Jay. “Just one time — I lasted only about 45 seconds.”

Matt, however, knew the games. He and Blake enjoyed playing together and discussing strategies. It was another source of bonding. Matt takes pride in the fact that Blake had taken to referring to him as his “step-dad.”

“And I’ll tell you straight-up,” notes Jay, “Blake didn’t like many of Deanna’s earlier boyfriends…”

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Dressed for high school prom, Blake Jones clowns with his mom Deanna. (Family photo)

“He didn’t like ANY of them,” interjects Deanna. “But when Matt started coming around, Blake saw the care that Matt provided me. So he gave his approval. He even gave Matt a nickname —  he started calling him ‘Matthais.’”

Jay says it was obvious when Blake withheld approval. “He didn’t like confrontation, but he’d sure stick up for his mom. He’d throw down in a heartbeat for his family.”

Deanna concurs: “He was my rock for 13 years. We’ve gone through some hardships together. He was always in my corner.”

Of course, Blake wasn’t perfect.

For one thing, he had a bad habit of staying up too late at night playing video games, then had difficulty getting up in time to catch the bus to school in the morning. Juanita thought she knew how to fix that problem.

“I took his phone and recorded ‘Blake! It’s Nana! Time to wake up! Wake up, Blake! It’s time!’” Juanita recounts with a laugh. “And he used that as his alarm.” 

“But sometimes he still wouldn’t wake up,” says Deanna. “I’d have to go into his room and shake him and say, ‘Blake! You’ve been hearing Nana yell at you for 45 minutes! Now please, get up!’”

Deanna spoke sharply to her son on more serious matters, such as his passion for spirited riding on motorcycles — especially after one of his close friends died in a wreck recently.

“Every time he went out, I’d say to him ‘Be careful, be safe, don’t do stupid things.’”

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Blake Jones posed for a senior portrait with the Harley-Davidson motorcycle his grandparents gave him. It was not the bike he was riding when he fatally crashed. (Family photo)

Jay and Juanita helped Blake buy a motorcycle of his own, agreeing to handle the payments until he got a job and could take over. 

“We wanted him to be on something safer than a ‘crotch-rocket,’” says Jay. “We wanted to get him a bigger bike, something more substantial. So we got a Harley Low Rider S.”

However, Blake wasn’t on the Harley the night of the wreck. He had switched with a buddy, and was riding a sport bike. And yes, the family acknowledges, he was going faster than he should have — although they wish that a more visible warning had been positioned so Blake could’ve seen it before he crested the hill and was immediately confronted with the blocked roadway.

Now family and friends ponder what could’ve been just over the horizon for Blake in life. Some are surprised to learn that he spoke of wanting to become a chiropractor specializing in treating athletes. 

“We thought it would be good for him to go to trade school,” says Deanna. “But for some reason, being a chiropractor fascinated him.”

Juanita has a theory: “He wanted to be able to heal people, to make them feel better.”

“Yes,” says Jay, “he wanted to help people. That’s what it always goes back to. He was always helping others, from when he first could until he couldn’t.”
Adds Matt: “He did that to the very end. He was an organ donor. Even though he lost his own, he helped other peoples’ lives with his donations.”

Mike O'Brien

Mike O’Brien is a longtime newspaper reporter, editor and columnist and is also a college journalism educator in Springfield. To suggest a person who might make a subject for Lives Remembered, email him at LivesRemembered@sgfcitizen.org or obriencolumn@sbcglobal.net. More by Mike O’Brien