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Great-Grandson's Questions Laid to Rest

Raymond Jones and his companion, Marge Hooks, stand near the grave of Jones's great-grandfather, Pvt. Charles W. Jones, a Confederate soldier.
Raymond Jones and his companion, Marge Hooks, stand near the grave of Jones's great-grandfather, Pvt. Charles W. Jones, a Confederate soldier. (Photos By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

All of this bulges in a three-ring binder about four inches thick.

"This is the master book," Jones said, plopping it on the table in front of him.

Each page is carefully labeled and then covered in plastic. It is a culmination of tidbits, a few isolated sentences here and there, that together tell the story of the Joneses.

It begins with a grainy black-and-white photo of Charles W. Jones and his second wife, Virginia.

"There were three brothers who were in the Civil War," Jones said. "One was killed, and two of them came home."

From the records, this is what is known about Charles W. Jones: He spent his entire life in Prince William County, leaving for war at age 24 and returning home six years later. In between, he was listed as a "rebel deserter" and captured near Hanover. He was court-martialed about two years later and confined for nine months.

Jones said others in his family like to believe that their great-grandfather was a war hero, but the evidence says otherwise. It's possible that he even robbed a bank in his time, he theorized. "When they tore down his old house, there was Confederate money in the walls," Jones said.

Still, there is reverence in Jones's voice as he turns the pages of the binder. There is a series of four photographs taped together on one page, tracing the Jones men for four generations, ending with him. The men share the same thin lips.

"Life is just too hectic and fast for anyone to sit in a rocking chair and wonder," Jones said.

Nearby sits his companion, Marge Hooks, 74, who has known him for almost 50 years and has helped in his research. She drove with him to Richmond, where he would spend hours poring through the archives. She contacted the officials at the Marine base and compiled the list of those invited to today's ceremony.

"We're hoarders," she said. "Buck's worse than me."

Hoarding is part of it, but Jones admitted that he has also been driven by his own mortality. As he and Hooks see their friends dwindle in number, he wants to leave a bit of himself behind.

"I want my grandchildren, their grandchildren to know," Jones said. "Don't you think that's a good idea?"

On the last page of the binder is a picture of his own tombstone at the Quantico National Cemetery, where his wife, Joyce Mae, is buried. Under her name is etched: "Cpl. Raymond W. Jones USMC."

Not outwardly sentimental, he said he doesn't care whether anyone visits him once he's gone. But a hesitation in his voice hints otherwise. Hints at not wanting to be an "unknown." In the photo in front of him, flowers rest not only on his future grave, but on the four surrounding it. Jones put those there, too.

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