Remembering Elam Jones

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March 22, 2013 started out as an ordinary day for many families in the Castle Valley area. What would happen later that day would not only shock an entire community, but it would change the lives of one family forever.

During the afternoon hours of this spring day, word came that a roof cave-in had occurred at Rhino’s Castle Valley Mine. Two miners were involved in the incident, but only one survived. As details became available it was clear that 29-year-old Elam Jones did not make it out alive. The news devastated his family, leaving they saddened yet filled with pride for the man they called son, brother, husband and daddy.

After briefly sitting with Julie Jones, one can see the joy on her face when she speaks of her son, Elam.

“He truly loved life. He lived life to the fullest. He taught his boys and family how to live it,” she explained.

Although the events that lead up to the miner’s death were tragic, the family wants to focus on the great memories they have of him. Memories that include his passions, interests and beliefs.

“Elam loved his snowmobiles. Any given Saturday he would be out on the mountains riding,” the proud mother explained. “He even survived two avalanches which made us think he had nine lives.”

She went on to explain that her son had many close calls. He had lost fingers, broke his elbow twice in a summer and ran into a barbed-wire fence on his four-wheeler.

“He had his wife Jacqie convinced that the scars were from a cougar attack,” she remembered with a laugh. “They were married about three months before she found out the truth. That’s just how he was, a character.”

Although full of life, Elam was also full of love. According to his mom, he and his wife adopted two young boys, Kelsen and Dacyn. The couple was in the process of adopting a third child when the mine accident occurred.

“He had a gruff exterior. I always told him that’s because his heart was so big,” Julie boasted. “He taught his children that everyone deserves a chance.”

As a father, Elam valued time spent with his boys. His mom explained that he would take the children hunting and fishing even in the cold under cover of an ice tent. Every Sunday, the three would go for donuts or ice cream, a tradition that Julie is glad the children had the opportunity to share with their father.

After the children were told about their father’s passing, the youngest son, Dacyn, told his mom “whatever we need to do mom, we’ll do it.”

Kelsen also was strong and drew a picture of his dad. Julie explained that the drawing was of two men under falling rock. When she asked Kelsen who the second man was in the drawing, he responded, “Jesus.” A touching, yet inspiring message from a son left behind.

Although Elam did not leave the mine alive, he was not alone. Julie explained that he loved his brotherhood at Rhino. He was part of the mine’s rescue crew and proud of it. Jones was also part of the rescue crew at Crandall Canyon Mine. He spent countless hours looking for his lost brothers on his hands and knees digging through the piles of coal hoping and praying to find a survivor. His mother is comforted knowing that rescuers did the same for her son when he was trapped.

“The (Rhino) miners are all supportive. We have no ill feelings toward the mine or any of the miners. It was an accident,” she explained. “I believe God has a plan for all of us. Elam is in a better place.”

A devoted son, Elam’s best friend was his dad Derk. According to Julie, the pair did everything together. Now that Elam is gone, Derk is left feeling alone.

“He went on the mountain this past weekend and said it didn’t feel right without Elam,” she explained.

The feeling will linger for quite some time for members of the Jones family.

“We have to carry on with our lives,” Julie stated. “It’s what Elam would have wanted us to do. We just want to remember the positive things and the good times we had with him.”

Though his life was cut short, Julie is confident that her son was ready to go.

“He made sure that he lived life to the fullest. The one thing I want everyone to take away from this is don’t waste time, live life to the fullest. Live as if it’s your last day.”

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