Condensing the rich life of Leo Jones — World War II vet, cancer survivor, friend of Paul Newman, father of five — into a single Patch article would be impossible.
Luckily, he’s written and published a memoir to share his story.
“The God of Common Sense: A Spiritual Journey” takes readers from Jones’ upbringing in rural southern Indiana through life in retirement from Marquette University, with his growth in spirituality as the foundation.
Jones has lived in Whitefish Bay since 1953, when he returned from completing his Ph.D at Indiana University. He was chairman of the drama department at Marquette, and with his wife raised five children in Whitefish Bay.
Key to his memoir are three near-death experiences, the first of which was a war injury that he said was something of a negotiation with God. On a march from Anzio to Rome Beach, fearing that he’ll be a casualty, he puts faith in God that he’ll get out alive, and if he has to be injured, an eye injury would be acceptable and taken without complaint.
Sure enough, a piece of shrapnel slices the optic nerve of his right eye, and the eye is eventually replaced.
“Up to that point I had confidence (in God), but it wasn’t that strong,” he said.
Jones — who turns 90 on Dec. 21 — later also survived bladder cancer, colon cancer and a heart attack. As his spirituality evolved, he came to an epiphany about the way God moved him.
“Seems to me that when I concentrate on the way I get messages from God, he always directs me to do what is common sense,” Jones said.
Central to that common sense ideal is the notion togetherness. He finds that in all religions is the command to know and take care of your neighbor. Togetherness is important to other aspects of his life as well; it attracted him to working in theater, and of course a household of seven is all about togetherness.
He penned the memoir over three years, working with a local writing group of which his daughter was a part.
“I felt I’ve had such a fortunate life, I wanted to share the good news of how good God has been to me,” he said.
One review of the book, published on Amazon.com, reads:
"Why would an ardent atheist praise a book on spirituality by a lifelong Catholic? Because this is the real thing. So often spirituality is loudly claimed by those who have it not. Spirituality--another commodity peddled by charlatans. "I'm a very spiritual person." How often have you heard that one — narcissistically invoked? But genuine humility, openness, and compassion — these things can't be faked. That is why the voice I find in this memoir strikes me as so genuine."