After 26 years of carrying the mail, postman George Washington Jones is hanging up his mail bag for good. More than 200 people from the Sonoma-Oakmont section of Bethesda turned up at a party last Sunday to wish him well, and almost all of them had a story to tell about Jones.

According to the neighbors, who had gathered at the Bethesda Women's Club, Jones is one of a disappearing breed - the mailman who knows just about all the 262 families on his route, who carries the neighborhood news along with the mail and who more than once has helped his customers in a pinch.

Several years ago, Harriet Brightman recalled, "I was about to take my year-old son for a walk when he disappeared. Everybody was running around searching for him. About half an hour later, Mr. Jones came up in his car - there was my son and our dog. he found them up on Greentree Road."

Thirteen-year-old Christian Titlow says Jones retrieves more than lost childrenand dogs. "He found my kite after the string broke. He has also brought back my bike."

Others said that Jones has attended funerals of residents, sent cards to the sick and once went to visit the elderly father of one of Jones' customers in the hospital. The old man had not been shaved lately, so Jones did it for him.

"I never would have made it without him," Johanna Grodzicki said. "My husband was in Vietnam for two years and I'd wait to hear George's squeaky truck. I could tell by the look on his face if there was a letter. When there wasn't he'd tell me it was okay, that things would be all right."

George Washington Jones lives in Silver Spring at 9737 Mount Pisgah Dr. with his wife, Felonnia. He was born in Westmoreland Co., Va., 62 years ago and moved to Ambler, Pa., in the 1940s to work in the U.S. Navy Yard. He moved to Washington in 1952 and has been bringing the mail to Bethesda residents ever since.

"He loves wht he's doing," said Sonoma resident, Bill Shipp. "He's a self-educated man with a quick wit." People seem to be Jones' biggest hobby, but he also likes wine-making, betting on the Redskins and keeping up on the latest postal legislation through his union, the National Association of Letter Carriers.

"I got to know George one day when his truck broke down and he came in for coffee," said Gloria Charney, a [WORD ILLEGIBLE] illustrator. "He told me he made wine." They struck a deal - he gave her his homemade brew, and she made labels for his bottles.

So the stories went at Jones' party, which was attended by people of all ages. The club had been decorated with streamers, balloons and drawings made by neighborhood children. And despite the sadness at Jones' departure, the party was un upbeat affair, the tone set by Jones himself.

"That's my granddaughter over there," he said, introducing the 20 members of his family who had gathered for the occasion. "She's with the Up With People (song and dance) group . . . that's why her legs are so skinny. And that's my son-in law. He's going o be a preacher. That accounts for me not making any more wine."

Jones has four daughters, all of whom he has sent to college, and 10 grandchildren.

Gordon Hawk, another Sonoma resident, gave Jones a letter from Congressman Newton Steers (R-Md.) congratulating Oones on his years of service and commenting that the effection shown by the neighbors "is a reflection of the goodness and warmth of spirit you have passed along to them."

To the delight of the crowd, the congressman's letter prompted Jones to make a political pitch asking the residents to write their representatives and encourage them to support legislation to keep down postal rates.

The group also presented Jones with gifts. john Elsbree said they considered subscribing to the Nick the Greeks's wire service since they were aware of Jones' affinity for betting on the point spread for Redskins games. They gave him a check instead.

Richard Titlow gave Jones the first two chapters of his doctoral dissertation. The postman was the only person Titlow saw for an entire month during one period of working on his paper. "I'd stall Jones just to have someone to talk to. Of course, this wasn't too difficult."

Titlow added that when his mother lived in a house near his, he rarely had to visit her. George Washington Jones, as usual, kept them posted on all the news.