When a concrete beam fell on her husband and killed him 10 years ago, Dorothy Jones thought her life was over. "There I was, at age 40, a widow with six kids and no job.

"Besides being depressed and lonely, so many other things were coming down. If a fuse blew, I panicked. I didn't even know how to turn the water off in the house.

"I had to learn how to drive. And one of my sons started experimenting with drugs, so I had to help pull him away from that."

Money wasn't an immediate problem since she had life insurance, a settlement from the construction company and Social Security payments until her children reached age 18.

"But I kept thinking ahead to the time my children were grown," says Jones. "I could see the day coming when I'd be sitting in that big house by myself with no income and nothing to do.

"I dated, sure but I didn't want to re-marry just to have a man's paycheck. I wanted to be able to take care of myself."

Three years ago Jones responded to a Center for Displaced Homemakers' television advertisement. "They helped me figure things out." She had worked briefly as a file clerk, factory worker and nurses' aide. "I didn't want to go back to that kind of work. I wanted to go to college and get a good job."

This spring she will recieve an associate of arts degree in mental health from the Community College of Baltimore and begin working fulltime for the Maryland Home for the Handicapped, where she now works part time.

"It's one of the best things I've done," Jones says triumphantly. "It's my 50th birthday present to myself."