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A dramatic start, a lifelong bond

Edna Jones, 95, went into labor at a most inconvenient time: during a hurricane in 1921. Her daughter is now 77 and a good friend.

Edna Jones gave birth to her first child during the 1921 hurricane. But to her, that experience is just one of her life's stepping stones.

She lived in Newfoundland while her husband, Harry, built a U.S. Navy base in 1941. They were commercial fishermen during the late 1950s in Florida. They golfed 50 holes on their 50th wedding anniversary in the 1970s. She raised three children, which led to 12 grandchildren and about 26 great-grandchildren. Edna, now 95, spends her days at Bon Secours Maria Manor. She is funny, feisty and modest.

"I had a good life just because I was with a man who loved me and I loved him," she said. "We got along well. I didn't want to divorce him."

Edna met Harry on a blind date and married him 10 days later. She was 17 and he was 21. They kept the union a secret from their parents, and every day he would walk by her home and wave.

She said that when her father found out several days later, he said he was going to put her in a convent and her husband in jail. Father and son-in-law would become friends.

When the hurricane hit, Jones, then 18, was playing cards with her husband and her father. They lived at Seventh Avenue and Ninth Street N.

When she went into labor, they borrowed the neighbor's car and drove to Mound Park Hospital (now Bayfront). It took several hours because of the fallen trees and debris.

They received no warning about the 1921 hurricane because the area had not experienced anything like it. She said it rained the night before and again that evening and that was the only clue they had.

"In those days you never heard of a hurricane," she said. "I never thought anything like that would happen. It was a nice, bright day like today and there's this storm . . . You couldn't get there because the trees were down and the telephone wires."

At the hospital, she was greeted by a nurse with a lantern. The doctor delivered her baby in candlelight.

"I was scared to death because I hadn't seen anything as bad as that," she said. "The nurse remarked "Oh, my God, it's not going to be today.' I was taken up to the second-floor room . . . You could see all these great big pine trees go way down and some of them come back and some don't. There they watch the trees and I'm dying." Baby Margaret weighed 8 pounds 8 ounces.

That baby is 77 now. She goes by Peg and she says her mother is a good friend. They are close and have been since Peg Gheney started spending time in Florida 20 years ago. When Gheney says goodbye, she kisses her mother and they discuss whether tomorrow will be a visit or a phone call.

"She has a heart as big as Texas and a wonderful sense of humor," Gheney said. "She is the best counselor I've ever had. I'm out here every day and we both have phones. She'll call me or I'll call her."

The daughter has had her own adventures as a nurse, who also volunteered in Venezuela with her husband. When asked where she got her compassion for helping others, she said her mother, too, has always been there for other people.

"Mother was a born volunteer," she said. "You've pushed everybody and taken care of everybody. We never made any money but had lots of fun."

As Jones sits in her wheelchair and reiterates the fact that she does not understand why anyone would want to hear her story, she says, "I'm 95 years old. You see a lot of life in 95 years."