David Jones is a reliable, hard-working, loyal leader…and my dad. Over the years, I’ve witnessed my dad serve in various roles in his professional and personal lives. From service as a leader in church to an administrator in his various jobs; he has always exhibited a matchless dedication to excellence and a spirit of perseverance. A resilient man, when facing challenging odds like not possessing the credentials needed to get to the next professional level, he earned his degree as an adult student. Dad, to this day, you remain a favorite student of Professor Mike Comiskey. At the end of this week, he will finally chill out and take a much-deserved break also known as retirement. A private man, he is probably annoyed that I opened my article with this paragraph. That’s ok. He will forgive me…eventually. In the meantime, when you wonder where I get my snarky sarcastic humor from, know it was a trait of Dave Jones. Or if you’ve ever pondered how I can say the things I’ve said with a bold confidence, know that I get it from my daddy. Dad, thanks for being a great example of leadership and commitment to service. I’m sure that your colleagues count themselves blessed to know you, to have worked with you and to call you friend. Celebrate big! You deserve all that this next season has for you…yes…that includes golf.

Another change has also hit the Jones clan. Since 2012, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with each of you through this platform. Through this column, you’ve entertained my silly stories, been challenged by my dares for change, celebrated momentous occasions, walked with me through stormy trials, and laughed with me through it all. Friends, this article will be my last regularly appearing article for the Herald Standard. If you don’t mind, I’d like to use the rest of this space to say thank you.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for journeying with me. Thank you for reaching out to me to let me know how much one of my columns meant to. Often as I read your story, I cried and prayed, thanking God for you and asking Him to protect and care for you. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for celebrating and encouraging Christian. He’s had several Walmart and Uniontown Mall encounters with many of you – “Aren’t you Christian? Is Gina your mom? Congrats on high jump!” He loves it…somewhere deep down in his soul. Thank you for stopping my parents at the post office, bank, church or grocery store to talk to them about my latest musing. Fun fact: They typically have no idea what you are talking about and usually run home to make sure they read what I said. Thank you Christian for not being too upset that I write about you so often. The same goes to my husband, my mom, my dad, my stepmom, my brother, my sister-in-love, my extended family. Writing about you and the love I have for you, the lessons I’ve learned from you has provided great content. Thanks for being my muses.

Thanks again mom. Thanks for always being my number one cheerleader. Thanks for always reading and inspiring me to write. Thanks Aunt Izzy for being my number two cheerleader. I appreciate you. Thank you Tina Weena for never missing an article and for sending me a message to let me know it blessed you. Thank you Herald Standard for giving me this platform to share my heart and serve the community I love so dearly. Quite often people would stop me or email me and ask, “They let you say that in the newspaper? How did you get away with that?” To my knowledge, I’ve never said anything too risqué; but I guess speaking openly about my faith and my family is a big deal. Thank you for allowing me to share about the things and the people who matter to me most. Thank you Mr. Mark O’Keefe for giving me the opportunity to write and encouraging me to write even more. My first commentary was half of what I submit now. He is the reason I am long-winded. Thank you Mike Palm for being a patient quiet supporter. Its been a pleasure to work with you.

During our previous conversation, I ended our chat with the following: “I’m glad I submitted to God’s plans for my life. He’s given me way more than I deserve. Proverbs says, “In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) My plans included writing this commentary indefinitely. Ha ha. Ridiculous I know. I never saw it ending or transitioning to something new or different. I plan to keep writing and I hope to connect with you but just a little less frequently. But this change, this change was one I wasn’t ready for. This change was one that I hadn’t prepared myself for. This change is a hard one. Writing to you is one of the few things that keeps me connected to home.

In the last 3 years, I’ve learned that transition can be challenging and change can be daunting. I’ve also learned that it can be exciting and invigorating. These seven years with you have been such a blessing.

Seven years. You remember don’t you? The meaning of the number 7? Seven is the number of completion. So although this part of our relationship is complete, a new one awaits us. I’m not sure what it will look like or how often we will get to “see” each other, but know that I am thinking of you, praying for you, believing in you, and hoping the best for you. I love you Uniontown. I love you my friends.

Gina Watts is a former resident of Fayette County, now living in Columbus, Ohio. She serves multiple communities as an advocate, educator, and leader. Follow Gina on Twitter @professorgmarie. To stay connected with Gina, visit her website www.ginawatts.com.

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