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Warren Jones - The Great One..... By Todd Jones


There used to be a small general hardware in Detroit near the Belle Isle Bridge. The owner named Thomas was a tinsmith who fashioned dorade vents for the passing freighters. In the 50's a couple of part timers from Detroit Edison worked there. One of them dabbled in small boats called Lightning’s at Bayview Yacht Club. Soon the owners had passed and the wife of the one remaining owner asked the boys if they would like to buy the store. They agreed and slowly the store’s focus shifted to sailing.

These were the hay days. The big three were churning out cars and profits for themselves and everyone associated with the industry. Cash was flowing and leisure time for most was readily available. Sailing was booming in Detroit in the 60' and 70's and the builders hadn't figured out that they could make more money outfitting the boats. The hulls came bare and everything was needed from winches to interiors. With the orders scribbled on his hand and the cash register in his pocket, Warren Jones would oversee the mayhem as customers would tear open the shipments, grab their orders, and write their own invoices. Don Fires would help them with their rigging needs. The little store on Lafayette and Townsend soon became cramped and the basement was used to store the line with stopper knots in the floor to keep it from slipping through.   more...


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That was a great tribute, Todd. Even though I only knew Warren for a few years, it was always a pleasure just to stop by the store and chat about politics and sailing. Warren was truely an enjoyable, caring person. Dave Hudgel Bounder 2/28/2005 7:49:43 AM
I am devastated at the news of the loss of one of the most outrageously hilarious and loved characters in our little sailing world here in Metropolitan Detroit. I had told my father tales of Warren’s singularly unique and charming ways of serving his customers. Dad always kind of pooh-poohed me and said I was exaggerating, so one day, I took him to the store with me. I needed to buy some water line for a plumbing repair. When I told Warren what I needed, he of course pointed his thumb over his back and said back there, down that aisle. Dad and I found a large spool of water line right where Warren said it would be. Then I realized that I hadn’t had the foresight to bring a tape measure or knife with me to cut the size piece I needed. Uh, oh – we know where this going. We walked back to the counter where Warren was, as usual doing 14 things at once. When I asked him if he had a tape measure and knife I could use, he started yelling and blustering at me, asking me “if I expected him to come and install it on the @#$ #$%^ boat for me, too”. I was so happy that he hadn’t disappointed me in showing him off to my father, that I hugged him! Todd, my deepest sympathies to you and your family. Your dad will be sorely missed by all. There can never be another like him. Kathie O’Sullivan 2/28/2005 11:19:38 AM
The Great One...A Legend that will be sorely missed, but certainly never forgotten!! Thank you for the well written article Todd. Our deepest symapathy, Greg Stevens and the entire Stevens Family.2/28/2005 12:15:46 PM
Greg Stevens
Todd As you know Warren & I had more than one "discussion".There's now a big hole in my heart where he was. The Big Guy in the Sky is probably trying to force a store audit. My money is on Warren. B'Bob 2/28/2005 12:38:50 PM
Todd, Please accept our condolences for your familiy's loss. Your Dad was an icon and a friend to all of us but our loss is nothing in comparison to yours. The best compliment to your father is the kind of person that you turned out to be. I'm sure he was proud. Everyone must have Warren stories, here's mine and I hope it brings you a smile. When I started sailing after getting out of the Army in the early 70's I had a Catalina 22. I stopped in one day to find a part that I'm sure wasn't more than a $10 sale. While Warren was helping me, a very Grosse Pointesh lady came in and asked if Warren had her husband's sailboat parts. He did, turns out they were two high tech, lighweight alloy winches that she wrote a $4,000 check for (this was 1973!). When she finished giving Warren the check she politely asked for help loading them into her car. Warren said "Hell lady, you just paid 4 grand for alloy winches you'll have no problem loading them in the car yourself". He then turned to me and resumed the discussion about my $10 part. We were all just sailors to Warren, my problem got the same attention as the high roller in the Mercedes. It's occurred to me that if you had a sailboat in the last 30 years, somtime during that period Warren (or Todd) has bailed you out at least once. We'll miss him Todd! I hope your family knows that. Jim Sorbie2/28/2005 12:58:54 PM
Jim Sorbie
It's been awhile since I've been to Thomas's...but I remember the old Townsend store and probably spent more time in the 70s and early 80s than I did even at work. I marveled at Warren's abilility to find or "engineer" a part. Your dad and my dad Howard tangled at times but were friends. Our prayers go out to you. Tom Hyatt2/28/2005 4:05:55 PM
Tom Hyatt
Todd my condolences. Privileged to know the great one, even had to buy Warren a few diet coke's for the joy of waiting on customers while I enjoyed the comradeship of the store. Warren is one of the few people that truly understood what sailing was about and he told you so. Not only was he an astute business man (getting change was almost impossible), and large cash amounts in hand had a way of turning impossible requests into "yea we'll take care of you". Long live the King. Whiteboy 2/28/2005 4:52:23 PM
I had many great days working for and with your dad (even painting his garage)! I know there is a special place in heaven for him. God Bless and be strong. Darrell Cope2/28/2005 5:08:15 PM
I have only been sailing since the early '90's. Since then, I recall, on my many trips to Thomas Hardware, I left the building, with what I came to get, feeling like I didn't want to leave. I learned quickly, one never took a trip to Thomas hardware and expected to get out of there in a hurry. Many times I thought I would go to the store just to sit and talk with Warren. He taught me a lot in my short sailing career. He will be missed by the entire Michigan sailing community2/28/2005 7:04:08 PM
Your father was one in a million, he used to drive down here to pick up t track and the occasional piece of toe rail. Would just walk in and start bellowing about how the "big guys" are all going down, just a mater of time. Would want to know how the boat was doing and why I wasn't out on the water. He helped me with some needed parts enroute to Huron race and "forgot" to bill me, it would be a year before he would tally it up. Damn few harder working, more straight-forward or harder working men ever walked this earth. I called Ray McLeod -Tartan founder- today to tell him about your dad, he sends his best to you and your family. I don't think I ever met any of you -only Warren, I will miss his visits and I will keep you in my thoughts. john allin - crest aluminum products - mentor ohio2/28/2005 7:29:36 PM
Malcolm S. Forbes said, "To measure the man, measure his heart". Warren appropriately became "The Great One" by this measurement. He was one of those fixtures in life who, it seemed, would always be there...and although he and I would often talk and joke about the inevitable, his passing hits much harder than I expected. But as I write this I feel guilty, for I know that Todd, Mark, their families, Burt and Mrs. Jones in particular hurt far more with this loss than I can imagine. My sincerest sympathy goes out to each of you, and to all who are saddened with Warren's passing. One quote in particular has always reminded me of him: "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." -Ralph Waldo Emerson To paraphrase one of Warren's favorites, "The problem child in America is" that there just aren't enough Great Ones around. The tribute at Bayview on Tuesday was an incredible testament to the man and the number of lives that he touched; through our memories he'll always live in each of us. Mrs. Jones, Burt, Todd, Mark: I can't express my thanks enough to each of you for sharing him with us. Old Man: thanks for the memories, the insights, the incredible laughs...I hope you have all the Diet Cokes and cookies you can eat where you're at. You deserve 'em, pal. I'm honored to have known you. PS: You were right all along: I am America's dumbest. wt3/3/2005 9:07:46 AM
Whoa Ted
I am reading through all of these postings on this site and Sailing Anarchy and I want everyone to know from the family, how deeply touched we all are. This is Todd’s wife, daughter in-law of Warren Jones. And now I would like to share a side of Warren many of you may not know. What was Warren like when he left the store? Well, first off, let me say how incredibly devoted he was to his wife, Suzanne. He was a gruff curmudgeon with non-stop insults for his customers, but at home he was a loving husband and grandfather. He never forgot a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s day) – ok often reminded that day by his sons, but still he always came through. Often times, he would bring flowers home for Suzanne just because. When I had my first child, I will admit, I was a bit concerned as to what type of a grandfather Warren would be. I was a bit nervous. I must say, he was a pleasant surprise and he taught my kids the meaning of the dollar, “where’s the money, pal?”. My daughter enjoyed spending days off school working at the store, making tips and keeping the change after she'd run next door to get Grandpa a diet coke. He wouldn't censor his comments at the store, and she learned to shrug her shoulders and get on with her work. I should have realized Warren would be a great grandfather - afterall children love to be with other children and Warren fit the bill. He was always able to make my kids laugh and they truly enjoyed spending time with him. Warren would take my kids on walks, and like a 4 year old boy fascinated with everything they came across, he and my kids would have gathered several rocks, sticks, and leaves. They would also give us updates on any recent houses being built. As my children got a bit older, they would spend the night or weekends over at their grandparents’ house while Todd and I were out of town. The kids would often be filthy and at least one injured, but very happy and with some great stories of their adventurous weekend. When Todd would be out of town to sail in a regatta or one of the Mackinacs, I could always depend on Warren to help me out with the kids and the dog. He would pick up Emma, our dog (or Georgia after we lost Emma), every morning and bring her with him to the store. Upon dropping her off every evening, I knew he had arrived when he would come up the driveway, yelling “Brynner!” At the door he’d ask for a diet coke and if I had bananas on the counter, he’d admire them until I would offer one of those, as well. He would call without fail to offer any help he could provide – did I need him to stop off and get milk? Could he bring us something to eat? Had I heard from “the boy”? (Todd) I had to warn babysitters if Todd and I would be gone and Warren would be coming by to drop off the dog. “OK and don’t let my father in law scare you, he’ll be dropping the dog by. He’ll be the guy with white knee socks, baggy shorts, stained shirt, you’ll know… Just give him a diet coke and he’ll be on his way.” Each time I would call the store to talk with Todd, he would announce me as “Todd, your bride is on the phone!” but not until he told me what was on his mind and “the problem child…” for the day. He would always ask what was going on at GM and wanted to know why they were so dumb. Warren will be missed by us all for our own reasons. I will miss him because he was family to me and while we do not have one of your normal families, I wouldn’t change a thing. The outpouring of support has been tremendous – everyone is asking what they can do. My answer is this: Please just go to Thomas Hardware – that is the best tribute and that is really what my husband needs right now. 3/3/2005 9:53:54 AM
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