Maude Jones, a special education paraprofessional at Rock Springs Elementary School, was growing more worried over Thanksgiving break as she watched the news, her daughter said. Many people were traveling for the holiday and experts were predicting an imminent spike in cases of the coronavirus.
So Jones, 64, submitted paperwork to retire from Gwinnett County Public Schools after Dec. 18, the last day of the semester.
But the coronavirus moved faster. Jones was sent home to quarantine Dec. 7 after another teacher tested positive, said Nyenneh Jones, her 38-year-old daughter. A few days later, Maude Jones tested positive and her condition worsened. She was hospitalized Dec. 16 and died Jan. 4 of COVID-19 at Northside Hospital Gwinnett, her daughter said.
“She was a very lively person,” said Jones, who lives near her mother’s home in Lawrenceville. “She was happy all the time. …She loved the children she worked with. Her work was so important to her.”
Maude Jones is also survived by two adult sons, Henry and Togar Jones of Lawrenceville, nine grandchildren, three siblings and many extended relatives in Lawrenceville and around the world.
Maude Jones was born and raised in Liberia, where she earned a college degree and taught before immigrating to New York in 1987, relatives said. Maude Jones coordinated social services in New York for people with developmental disabilities before her niece, Joan Jones of Lawrenceville, convinced her to move to Georgia for more space to raise her family.
She started working for Gwinnett County Public Schools in 2006 as a paraprofessional. She worked at Arcado and Rockbridge Elementary Schools before moving in 2018 to Rock Springs, her daughter said.
Rock Springs Principal Allan Gee sent a letter Jan. 5 informing staff and students’ families of Jones’ death. The letter did not specify a cause of death and the school district would not confirm it, citing privacy laws.
“In her role, she worked with a small number of students, doing so in a caring and respectful manner,” Gee said in the letter. “Although Ms. Jones would not have been returning to our school this semester as she had retired in December, I knew our Rock Springs family would want to know of our loss.”
Maude Jones’ relatives described her as the backbone of the family and said she kept in touch with relatives around the world, sending birthday gifts even to those she’d never met. She was a devout Christian who never missed a church service, watching them online after the pandemic reached Georgia, her daughter said.
Joan Jones said the children of the family were close to Maude, who was playful with the little ones and a confidant for the teenagers. Family members around the world are devastated, Joan Jones said.
“A portion of me has died,” she said. “This is a pain that we will never recover from.”
Maude Jones was very cautious amid the pandemic, getting tested frequently, skipping family gatherings and barely going to the grocery store, Joan Jones said. She encouraged mask wearing by making colorful masks for others, her niece said.
Relatives said they’d been concerned since Gwinnett reopened school buildings. Joan Jones said students take off their masks to eat and talk at lunchtime and the classrooms are not big enough for appropriate social distancing.
“They’re more worried about curriculum than worried about life,” Joan Jones said. “If they had waited until the vaccine rolled out, she would be here today. …This could have been avoided.”