A businessman who turned a pawnbrokers into what some believe to be the grandest jewellery shop in Northamptonshire has died.
Michael Jones, 85, died peacefully at Northampton General Hospital surrounded by his family on Sunday.
He had suffered a stroke and collapsed at home 18 days before. His family say he received “wonderful care in the last few days of his life”.
William Craghill, managing director of Michael Jones Jewellers, said: “Michael was a great man and he will be very sadly missed. I worked with him for 44 years and he was an inspiration to those who knew him. It was a peaceful end to a very full life.”
The Michael Jones Firm was established by Mr Jones’ parents in 1919 and began as a pawnbroker. When his father died in 1960, Mr Jones took over the business. In 1963, he decided his goal was to turn the pawn shop into ‘one of the best jeweler’s in the county’. He sold off the carpets, curtains and other stock and focussed only on selling gold, jewellery and watches.
Mr Craghill said: “His secret to success was, he told me, that you couldn’t be all things to all men. You have to identify what you want to sell and stick to it.”
He recognised the work of young jewellers and goldsmiths with unusual designs which were not always easy to sell outside of London.
In 1968 the original shop on the mounts, which had won a civic award for its modern design, moved to number 1 Gold Street, later two further shops were opened, one in the Grovesnor Centre and one in Banbury.
In 1970, Mr Jones turned his family business into a co-operative and shared its ownership with his employees. Michael’s own words on this move were: “In my business life my best decision was to turn the company which Anne and I owned into a co-operative, owned and managed by those who worked in it. I did this because I believed the scriptural teaching that those who lead are the servants of those who are led and that the enterprise in which people worked is at its best when it is owned and managed by those who work in it.”
Mr Craghill said: “For someone who built the business up himself that was an odd thing to do at the time. He had a caring side – even after he retired in 1996, he cared about the business and its employees, even when he had no hand in running it.”
Outside of his jewellery business, Mr Jones became Chair of the National Association of Goldsmiths in 1971 and would later become its president.
In the 1960’s Dr Bill McQuillan, the then medical director of health, asked Michael to join the committee of the Northamptonshire MIND charity. Eventually Michael became the chairman and remained so for several years. During that time money was raised for an improved nearly new shop with a drop in centre which also employed a social worker. Subsequently to this he met Dorothy Davidson, a social worker from St Andrews Hospital, who saw the need for a bridge between recovering from mental ill health and the world of work. She asked Michael to help her to set up a committee which in 1980 helped turn the site’s old laundry house into the Workbridge volunteering and work experience facility. Michael became the founding chairman and held the title for 18 years.
Sarah Cotton, senior service manager at the Workbridge, St Andrews, said: “Everyone at Workbridge is saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Jones. Michael was fundamental in setting up Workbridge 36 years ago and has been an avid supporter of the charity ever since, regularly visiting and contributing to various events.
“He was a fantastic advocate for providing opportunities for people with a mental health issue in Northamptonshire. Michael was an incredibly generous and compassionate man.”
Mr Jones lived in Weston Favell with his wife, Anne. She said: "Michael was an enthusiast. The guiding star in his life was his Christian faith. Wherever he lived, he attended his local parish church all of his life, and he was a reader for the Church of England for 48 years.
"After he retired, we had a project to visit the 1,000 favourite churches of Simon Jenkins in England and Wales. In the end, we visited over 700 of them, plus all the cathedrals, and over the years we walked the entire South West Coast Path, which is approximately 630 miles. We also walked the Pilgrim Path from France to Santiago del Compostela in Spain.
"We met at the Abington Youth Fellowship in 1951. My first impression of him was he was noisy. I remember thinking, 'I hope he doesn't come and talk to me as he is very noisy and I am very quiet.'
"He was a keen gardener and we spent a lot of time with our grandchildren in these last few years.
"What I will remember most about Michael is that he had a positive outlook. He bloomed wherever he was planted and made the best of every situation. His glass was always half full. In a way, he was ready to die at any moment but he also enjoyed life."
Mr Jones was cared for by the staff of the Eleanor Ward and the Allebone Ward of Northampton General Hospital in the last days of his life. He signed an advance directive several years before he died asking his doctors not to resuscitate him.
Mrs Jones said: "He felt very strongly about not prolonging life past its natural point."
Micheal Jones' funeral is on March 17 at 11am at St Peter's Church in Weston Favell.