Unlike his father, Dr. Blair Jones likely won’t experience the pride of watching a child follow him into the profession of dentistry.
He admits it would have been nice.
“When the kids were little, I was kind of hopeful that one of them would,” said Jones, who began his career 30 years ago when he opened his practice in Mansfield. “But as they got older, I realized it wasn’t in their interest. The main thing is that they are happy in whatever they do, and at this point it’s pretty clear it’s not going to be dentistry.”
But he’s still working on his legacy.
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Jones has been one of the go-to volunteer medical professionals who donate their services to help needy families in Mansfield – and well beyond. He has made several trips over the years to Mexico and Honduras to provide dental treatment for impoverished, suffering people.
At home, Jones and his wife, Patti, both of whom grew up taking long trips with their parents, made travel and appreciation of culture an educational priority for their two daughters and son. Countless summer vacations became field trips across the country, taking the family to all 50 states, as well as Canada and Australia.
Those passions appear to have taken root. The oldest daughter, Cami, 25, has traveled to South Africa and Peru and currently is youth services director for a Salvation Army post in Massachusetts. Her sister Alli, 22, teaches English at a high school in Thailand’s province of Lamphun.
The youngest, Caleb, a 17-year-old senior at Legacy High School, plans to take a year off before college to live in Chile as a foreign exchange student.
“I’m horrible at science, so (dentistry) was never an option for me,” said Cami Jones, who followed her own calling and earned a master’s degree in global leadership from Dallas Baptist University. She said she loves her job because she spends her days working with troubled teens and families in need.
“I think that goes back to my parents a lot,” she said. “For all of us from an early age, it was just about giving back and helping people less fortunate than you.”
Blair Jones’s path was more direct. He got interested in dentistry because of his father, Zane Jones, who started his practice in 1951 in Sweetwater, near Abilene. He retired 43 years later.
“I watched and saw what he did,” Jones said. “In high school I got interested in the life sciences. I liked working with my hands. That had some appeal to me.”
Jones, who turned 56 this month, said he doesn’t plan to match his father in career longevity, but added, “I think I can make it to 40.”
Jones attended Baylor University, where he met his wife and both graduated. They married in 1980, and he completed dental school in Dallas in 1983, opening his clinic in Mansfield on Nov. 21, which he said was coincidentally the same date his dad opened his clinic 32 years earlier.
A college friend introduced them to Mansfield, which they considered ideal as a quiet place just outside the bustle of the Metroplex and neutral ground between Sherman and Sweetwater, where their parents lived.
Mansfield, a city of about 60,000, was town of about 10,000 at the time.
“We knew there was going to be growth,” said Patti Jones, who retired as principal of Alice Ponder Elementary School in 1991. “But we didn’t think it would be quite as crazy as it was.”
As the practice grew, it moved. The first two locations were along U.S. 287. In February 2002, Jones moved into a newly constructed building at 1700 Country Club Drive, its current home.
It seemed to be a cheerful home one afternoon last week, as hygienist Sarah Dominey cleaned the teeth of JaNae Mundy, a Kennedale resident and 15-year patient of Jones. Mundy said Jones is an usher at her church, which makes it easy to catch him for him dental advice.
“He’s very approachable, really nice,” Mundy said. “If you ask him about your teeth on Sunday, he doesn’t say, ‘Call me on Monday.’”
Jones has three full-time hygienists, one of whom – Dee McCann – has worked there 22 years. Another has worked for him for 16 years.
Dominey, a five-year employee, calls it “my dream office,” for several reasons. For one, Jones has a full-time hygiene assistant, who makes life easier for the hygienists by ordering supplies, cleaning rooms, laying out the sterile tools and taking X-rays.
Dominey and McCann said Jones lets the hygienists schedule and reschedule their patients themselves, because they know how much time each patient requires. That reduces wait time to almost nothing, they said.
“And even though he’s the boss, he’s willing to jump in and do things that aren’t his job,” Dominey said. “Say if a room needs to be cleaned and we’re all busy, he’ll clean his own room, and normally a dentist will not do that.”
In 1985, Jones made his first trip to provide dental treatment outside the United States. He spent a week helping the people of an impoverished area near Tampico, Mexico, doing almost nothing but pulling teeth from aching mouths. Jones said he pulled about 100 teeth in a week, more extractions than he does all year in Mansfield.
“A lot of those people don’t have any kind of care,” he said. “All they want is for their teeth to stop hurting. It was one of those things where if you didn’t provide dental care for them, they weren’t going to get it.”
Over the next 20 years, he made another trip to Mexico and two to Honduras to volunteer dental care. In 2009, he and a party of dentists were preparing to return to Honduras when a coup ousted its president and prompted the U.S. State Department to discourage American travel to the country. They complied.
Jones also has taken on pro bono work from the school district.
“We’ve worked with the school nurses to take care of kids that had dental needs and didn’t have the finances to be able to pay for that,” he said.
And he served several years on the board of Dental Health Arlington, a non-profit founded in 1993 that serves low-income families in Arlington, Mansfield and Kennedale.
An Eagle Scout, Jones became active again in the Boy Scouts organization as his son Caleb was working his way up the ranks and earning Eagle Scout status. Jones has volunteered for the Boy Scouts’ Tejas District for the past 11 year, including more than six years on the district committee. He stepped down in March.
The Boy Scouts showed their appreciation for Jones by presenting him with the Tejas District’s Award of Merit.
Jones also has been named the city’s best dentist twice, including in 2013, by vote of Mansfield News-Mirror readers in its annual Best of Mansfield poll.
“We’ve just been here such a long time,” he explained. “And I think that over the years we’ve treated patients well and developed friendships with them. That’s what makes the job fun.”