Losing Debbie

Sorry this post is so late. I have not been well. I posted on FB but this is for my friends outside.

Debra Diane Jones, my caring partner and wife for 29 years, best friend, my conversation partner, my critic, my fashion consultant, my travel companion, my co-conspirator, my right hand, my lover . . . passed away on June 15th in Ethiopia due to complications from malaria, typhoid and some other infections.

She had rejoined the Rainbow Caravan of travelers headed south through Africa after spending almost 2 months with TJ (our 14 year old daughter) and myself, wandering through 6 countries from The Gambia to Ghana, spending some time at agricultural projects to help them towards sustainability. One of the compounds loved Debbie so much they adopted her into their family and gave her the name Soffie Mendy. We lived and ate among the locals and traveled through Africa in local transport.


Most likely, Debbie and I contracted the diseases together. I went to hospital in Ghana about the same time as Debbie was admitted in Ethiopia. When I heard the news that Debbie did not make it, I was only half-conscious and on IV drips and not fully aware. Even now, the realization of her being gone has not fully registered.

Debbie was an amazing wonderful wife and I am thankful beyond words for 29 years with the greatest woman in the world by my side. Debbie was the most pure person I have ever met. Her strong convictions were lived out fully in every area of her life and yet she was understanding and generous towards people who thought differently. She believed the land belonged to everyone so did not own any property. She wore one outfit. She hated flying. She never wasted anything. She never wore makeup but had an inner beauty that shone out for all to see. She was loved and welcomed wherever she went. She was the greatest traveler ever – living out of a 20 litre day pack and sleeping under the stars with a hatchet under her make-shift pillow.

More importantly, she was a wonderful wife to me and an incredible mother to 5 kids, raising them and home-schooling them mostly on the road in over 40 countries.

Most obviously, Debbie loved to live simply and adventurously. When asked about her retirement plan (we never had any money) she would reply that her strategy was to live more dangerously and take more risks.

My greatest grief is not losing a wife but seeing my daughters lose a mother. It’s tough for us all now, so close to her passing, but there will be countless times in the future when the pain will be felt again and again – at celebrations, at marriages, at births, at graduations, when Debbie will not be there with her contagious smile and trademark laugh, to celebrate with us.

Anyway, thank you all for your notes, FB posts, emails, visits and other ways of sharing in our loss. About 5 cards just arrived in the mail from New Zealand. Its been really helpful and healing to know that our loss is shared by so many people globally who were impacted by Debbbie.

There will be a memorial service in Portland OR on August 14th, 2016. No venue selected yet.

Here’s some links you might be interested in:

Friends and Family of Debbie “Mum” Jones on FB, started by Debbie’s sister Pam, is a place you can leave thoughts and photos.

A more permanent website for this outside of Facebook is being set up by Amy Chapman for stories and photos. Link soon.

In Memory of Mum Jones is a fund set up for the memorial expenses by Jessica.

If you want to send a card then you can send it here: 117 N Cleveland Ave, Winston Salem, NC 27101, USA


How am I, people are asking – My health is improving. The diseases, including the worst strain of malaria, are gone and my health getting restored slowly. I was released from the last hospital (Wake Forest Baptist, Winston Salem, which specializes in weird infectious diseases) a week ago and have been making gains each day. I am gaining some weight and can now walk to the kitchen without getting really dizzy. The doctors told me yesterday my hemoglobin level is very low so I am taking extra folic acid along with my vitamins and working on my heart rate.

Emotionally? I am sad and grieving but I am not despondent or depressed. I am thankful for an incredible life-giving marriage and for all my times with Debbie since I met her in 1985. But I am also hopeful for the future, seeing rays of light into a new chapter in which I know great things will happen. I know my return to singleness will bring with it a new array of opportunities and challenges and a wider scope to respond to them.

Thanks all for your prayers and thoughts during this difficult time.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.

1 Comment

  • Rebecca Wilson says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. I was just checking in on your blog, as I have done every few years since the summer when my friend Erica and I sublet your house in Prague as your family did a pilgrimage. We overlapped for a bit in the house, it was crowded but full of joy. I’ll always remember your family and Debbie who I found an inspiration. Homemade pizza, kids on top of kids, movie nights. I am you and your family had so many wonderful years, but so sad that Debbie has passed. I feel lucky to have known her.

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