Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Bertha Winona Nigels Jones

Preservationist Winona Jones who esteemed books, history dies at 81

PALM HARBOR — Winona Jones lived a fast life. At 16, the high school track star dropped out because she wanted to get married.

She cut corners on sleep and exceeded speed limits. Mrs. Jones later resumed her education, picked up two master's degrees, lobbied for libraries and raised a family. The fourth-generation Floridian also started a historical museum, wrote a book and hosted a television program about Pinellas County's history.

"I think she wanted to be the first woman president, to tell you the truth," said daughter Carole Pandorf.

Mrs. Jones, a founder of the North Pinellas Historical Museum and immediate past president of the Palm Harbor Historical Society, died Friday of an immune deficiency. She was 81.

Winona Nigels grew up in Palm Harbor, where her father grew citrus. She married Charley Jones, four years her senior, in 1944. They grew citrus and sold fresh-squeezed orange juice, "all you can drink" for a dime.

A hard freeze in 1957 decimated the Jones' 10 orange groves. "We lost it and never replanted," Mrs. Jones told the Times in 2006, tears in her eyes nearly 50 years after the event.

She went back to school, starting with the long-forsaken high school diploma. By 1967, she had a master's degree in library science from the University of South Florida.

Over the next 27 years, she worked for three Pinellas County schools as a librarian, the last five years at East Lake High School, picking up an advanced master's in broadcasting along the way. She lobbied legislators for better libraries, and performed so effectively that her peers in the American Association of School Library Specialists elected Mrs. Jones their national president in 1990.

Mrs. Jones never hesitated to meet with any politician, and always showed up armed with research.

"She was like Eleanor Roosevelt," said Pandorf, 57. "She would go into a situation knowing what the heck she was talking about."

The Joneses built a two-bedroom house on 30 acres, where they raised three children and Angus cattle. They replaced the home twice, building a white plantation-style house in the mid 1980s that now sits in the middle of a seeming preserve a stone's throw from suburbia.

"Mom wanted the big front porch, the porch on the second floor and the big columns," said daughter Sharon Allworth, 61.

As a mother, Mrs. Jones enforced "rest time," a sacred hour of reading. Later, she liked to sit on the downstairs porch of her dream home with a book and a glass of sweet tea.

She attended the births of her grandchildren, staying just long enough to help out. "She could sense it," Pandorf said. "She would say, 'Not only do you not need me to stay, you need me to leave.' "

When the grandchildren turned 6, she granted them all a weeklong car trip anywhere in the state.

Meanwhile, her activism to preserve the Florida of her childhood never waned. She fought to save Caladesi and Honeymoon islands from development, and helped rescue the home of Judge Thomas Hartley from the wrecking ball. That home is now the site of the North Pinellas Historical Museum.

"She was definitely one of the go-to people that one always thought of when you had a question about something to do with history in north Pinellas County," said Terry Fortner, president of the Palm Harbor Historical Society. Mrs. Jones published a book, Around Palm Harbor, in 2003.

Behind glass in the Winona and Charley Jones Exhibit Room of the museum, the fragile pages of a diary lie open, next to a blurry photo of author James C. Craver's post office and general store in Sutherland — the town that would later be renamed Palm Harbor.

A century later, Winona Jones was pressuring a county commissioner to put a traffic light in the same spot where Craver established his post office. Charley Jones, 85, remembers the conversation as fairly typical of exchanges between Mrs. Jones and public officials.

"She told (commissioner) Sallie Parks, 'A light needs to be where County Road 1 crosses Tampa Road,' " Jones said. "Sallie Parks says, 'Winona, don't worry. There will be a light there in two weeks.' "

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or


Bertha Winona Nigels Jones

Born: Feb. 24, 1928

Died: Nov. 6, 2009

Survivors: Husband, Charley; son, Charles and his wife, Judy; daughters, Sharon Allworth and her husband, Clark, Carole Pandorf and her husband, Wayne; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Memorial service: 3 p.m. Saturday North Pinellas Historical Museum, 2043 Curlew Road, Palm Harbor.

Preservationist Winona Jones who esteemed books, history dies at 81 11/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 7:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here

    The Heater


    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, they better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher they can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz keep paying tech expert suspected of stealing House computers?


    The following is from the Miami Herald:

  3. GOP senators blink on a big chance to repeal 'Obamacare'


    WASHINGTON — After seven years of emphatic campaign promises, Senate Republicans demonstrated Wednesday they don't have the stomach to repeal "Obamacare" when it really counts, as the Senate voted 55-45 to reject legislation undoing major portions of Barack Obama's law without replacing it.

    U.S. Sen. Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) talks with reporters as he walks to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, DC. [Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
  4. Rick Baker's debate answer revives painful St. Pete controversy


    ST. PETERSBURG — Former Mayor Bill Foster fired one of his top administrators, Goliath Davis III, six years ago for disobeying an order to attend the funeral of a slain police officer.

    St. Petersburg police officers stand by two caskets before the beginning of the 2011 funeral services for Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD   |  Times]
  5. Plan your weekend July 28-30: Comic Con, Lady Antebellum, Margarita Wars, Tampa's Fourth Friday


    Plan your weekend

    Geek out

    Tampa Bay Comic Con: The fan convention returns to the Tampa Convention Center this weekend, bringing actors Val Kilmer, Kate Beckinsale, Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek's Lt. Uhura), Khary Payton (Ezekiel in The Walking Dead) and the …

    Ibri Day poses for a photo at opening day of the 2015 Tampa Bay Comic Con at the Tampa Convention Center. (Friday, July 31, 2015.) [Photo Luis Santana | Times]