Goodbye to the Mountain Storyteller


Over the years Keith Jones wrote more than a few guest posts for the Blind Pig and The Acorn. Many of his stories were shared around Halloween as part of my Spooky October series. Keith also wrote about his parents, grandparents, and great aunts who greatly influenced his life while growing up just over the Georgia line from here. Keith’s dear mother, Ethelene Dyer Jones, has also been a frequent guest post writer.

You may remember last October I gave Keith’s storytelling event at the John C. Campbell Folk School a shout out. I was fortunate to attend the event. Keith was a great storyteller as always. He had the crowd hanging on every word. He also told the crowd about the Blind Pig and The Acorn. I so appreciated his kind words about the blog and me.

I didn’t know until about two weeks ago, Keith passed away shortly after the show from a massive heart attack on November 16, 2017.  Along with being a storyteller he was also a Baptist minister for 45 years serving at Morganton Baptist Church, The North American Mission Board, First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs, GA, Bethabara Baptist Church of Athens, GA, Poplar Springs North of Dublin, GA and was a Member of The Sons of Jubal.

I can’t imagine the heartache his family has gone through, is going through. Keith left this ole world much to soon and my heart goes out to his family.

In early January there was another loss of life connected to the Blind Pig and The Acorn. The Rowland Zimmerman Family Band was kind enough to learn, perform, and upload two of Pap’s original gospel songs, and talented son, Ryan, even lent his steel guitar playing to one of our recordings to be released in the future. We were all saddened to hear of the passing of Rhoda Zimmerman, beloved wife and mother of the family.

Paul and Katie filmed “Oh Come Angel Band” in honor of Rhoda and I’d like to also dedicate the video to the memory of Keith Jones who was a true friend of the Blind Pig and The Acorn.

I’ve always liked the song, its hard to see how anyone couldn’t like it or at least acknowledge the moving sentiment behind the words. Since Pap died the song has taken on more significance for me. I’m sure its because he told Granny he’d be waiting in the shallow water on the other shore.

I know I’m nearing holy ranks of friends and kindred dear I brush the dew of Jordan’s bank the crossing must be near. 

I know Keith and Rhoda will be there too.


From Keith’s mother, Ethelene Dyer Jones:

Blind Pig and the Acorn fan and contributor, the Rev. Elton KEITH Jones of Epworth, Ga, passed away on November 16, 2016 at his home with a massive heart attack.  For over 45 years an ordained minister of the gospel, this 65-year old minister, writer, story-teller, friend-to-many, will be sorely missed.

Hundreds attended his viewing at Akins Funeral Home, Blue Ridge, GA on Saturday evening, November 18, from 5 – 9 P. M.  and signed the guest register, giving deepest condolences to his family left behind to mourn his passing:  His widow, Debra (Debbie) Sevigny Jones; sons Brian David (wife Amanda), Nathan Andrew (wife Kayla) and Matthew Collins (wife LaTasha); his mother, Ethelene Dyer Jones; and his sister, Cynthia (Cyndi Jones) Berenguer (husband Carlos); twelve grand children who called Keith G-Daddy;  aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins (galore in number) and a host of friends and those still alive in churches he pastored, was early-on in his ministry, a minister of music and youth and associate pastor, then a pastor in Georgia (as well as those, during seminary days in Kentucky and Indiana).

He retired in 2014 at age 62 due to some heart problems then, and back surgery.  He did not want his “temporary disabilities” to impinge upon his duties as an active pastor.  He was still involved in pastoral ministries as an interim pastor, a Christian writer, teacher, speaker, and contributing articles and Bible studies through Lifeway and other publications.

He was a storyteller and taught Storytelling at the John C. Campbell Folk School in NC, and elsewhere.   He continued to be a speaker and entertainer (in addition to telling stories, playing his guitar and singing)  at church gatherings and banquets in a broad geographic area.  Across the state line from his home in Epworth, GA.

He had also been a minister of music, and was noted for his bass solo (and harmony) voice.  He was a member of the Blue Ridge First Baptist Church Men’s Quartet, and an active, participating member of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s “Sons of Jubal,” noted men’s singing group.

His thesis at New Orleans Seminary from which he graduated was on the last book in the Bible, “Revelation.”  His manuscript (still unpublished) has been shared with many people and in the classes on Revelation he taught in his own churches and to churches to which he was invited to teach the last book in the Bible.

On others of his writings, he was co-author with his mother of a book of poems, “Mother and Child Reunion,” published in 1995.  He also was author/compiler of a history book, “Images of America:  Blue Ridge, GA.”

At the time of his death, he was in the process of writing a book on the Art of Storytelling and compiling a volume of his own stories he had made popular by his own appearances at venues throughout north Georgia and elsewhere.  He was especially noted for his impersonation of Johnny Appleseed, a presentation he made to school groups throughout the North Georgia area.

He was a founding member of the Byron Herbert Reece Society and active in getting the Reece farm at Blairsville declared and opened as “The Byron Herbert Reece Farm and Heritage Center, a popular venue now on the Southern Literary Trails listing of important historical/literary places to visit.  He served as the second president of the Byron Herbert Reece Society, and edited the Society’s blogspot until his death.

As an historian, he also succeeded his mother as historian for the large Dyer/Souther Heritage Association, and had for the past two years been editor of that family association’s newsletter, “The Chronicle,” which his mother began in 1990, and of which she was editor until she retired from the position in 2015 and Keith assumed editorship.  He and his mother also had an editing business, called EJ Productions, which was their attempt to help budding authors get their manuscripts in shape to submit to a publisher.  They founded this joint business in 1995.  Keith, especially, was expert at layout and design, for he worked to edit “The Royal Ambassador” magazine when he was an employee/missionary at the North American Mission Board in Atlanta.  Later, after his retirement in 2024, he worked part-time at “American Printing” in Blue Ridge, GA in layout/design.

He loved the Lord, his family, people, church work, history, reading and writing.  Thanks be to  God for the life and contributions of Elton Keith Jones (born April 29, 1952 in Macon, GA, died November 16, 2017 in Epworth, GA).

His memorial service (attended by a full house) was held at Blue Ridge First Baptist Church Sunday afternoon, November 19, 2018, where he and Debbie had current membership and where Debbie is pianist. Keith was active as leader of children’s groups, in missions projects and mission trips, as leader of the children’s choir at the time of his death, and sang bass in the church choir and in the church’s Men’s Quartet.  Eulogies were given at his Memorial Service by the Rev. Claud Mathis, Director of Morganton/Mountaintown Baptist Association and by the pastor, the Rev. Bob Richardson.  Keith’s son, the Rev. Matthew Jones, presided at the memorial service and gave “Remembrances,” with all three sons speaking a tribute to their father and giving significant “Remembrances” of growing up in a pastor’s home.  Middle son, Nathan, a professional musician, played and sang an original hymn he had composed for his father at the Memorial Service.  His mother, Ethelene Dyer Jones, was asked by his sons to also give “Remembrances,” and to read three of her original poems as a tribute to her minister son.

Interment followed at the Epworth First Baptist Church Cemetery, Epworth, GA.  after the interment service, First Baptist Church, Blue Ridge, hosted a meal for family members and the host of cousins and other kin who attended Rev. Jones’s Memorial Service and burial.  Kindnesses, condolences, and gifts in memory of Rev. Keith Jones are gratefully appreciated and are being acknowledged still, as they are received in his memory.  Thank you for a loving, caring surrounding of friends and relatives.  Those of you who wish to read his obituary and sign the guest book may find it at the online site of Akins Funeral Home, Blue Ridge, GA.



*Source: Rev. Keith Jones of Epworth, Georgia | 1952 – 2017 | Obituary

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  • Reply
    Matthew Jones
    December 9, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Hi Tipper, it’s been a while since I saw this. I was looking up something online about Dad and this came up. Hard to think that it’s been three years already! Thank you again for the kind words that you shared here.

  • Reply
    Leon Estes
    January 27, 2018 at 9:12 am

    Please express my condolences to the two families. (thanks) Thank you for posting that performance of “Oh, Come Angel Band”. Reminds me of T.L. Claxton, my father-in-law, who passed about year 2000. He loved MayBelle Carter and after age 58, wrote songs, ran an hour music show on Saturdays, formed his own publishing company, learned to play the Autoharp, and introduced me to Hammer Dulcimer music. Quite a guy! I can send you a copy of one of his self-made CD’s, Tipper, if you would like. “I Remember Being 5 Years Old” in memory of Jimmy Rogers.

  • Reply
    Robert Wasmer
    January 22, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Love the hymn, and you family’s rendition of it. Fitting for three recent loss of love ones.

  • Reply
    betty stephenson
    January 22, 2018 at 2:04 am

    so beautiful and very poignantlove it

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    January 22, 2018 at 12:25 am

    Would that we could lift the grief from Ethelene but it’s a pain that will only be borne, no matter how we wish we could cause it to be otherwise, in her own heart. Yet, all of us pray the balm of her sweet memories will ease that pain as days go by.

    Keith’s legacy is that a most important art form was advanced through his love of storytelling and his talent for imparting that love onto the young. He learned well from his mother.

    And, thank Goodness, Tipper’s site provided one of the good forums for preserving his works.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 21, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    So sad to hear of the passing of such fine people! The song itself would seem to be speaking of death and dying but it is really not. These people’s lives are gone, from our prospective, but from their’s it was only the blink of an eye.

  • Reply
    Julie Moreno
    January 21, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    I pray the Lird blesses them during this time.

  • Reply
    January 21, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    So beautiful! Such sweet sadness.

  • Reply
    January 21, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    I just found the Wilson Brothers on a Reel to Reel tape and loved it. There is a second Reel to Reel and I’m fixin’ to listen to it. Ray and Pap sure do a Fantastic Job on these and I really enjoy this type of Music. …Ken

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 21, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Tipper (and the families of Keith and Rhoda)–Losses of these two loyal readers is a blow to all of us. The song, long a favorite of man, is a fitting tribute, and thanks for sharing the news, sad though it is, and the song.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    January 21, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    A fine tribute, indeed, for this song pretty near carries the listener away. And Chitter’s strong vocal is just…mesmerizing.

  • Reply
    January 21, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    I didn’t know either Keith or Rhoda, but I’ve enjoyed their blogs and Keith was a great storyteller. I feel like I know his Mama, cause she is a regular on here. My prayers go out to the families of Keith and Rhoda. I know what it’s like to lose close family members and I’m Sorry for Your Loss. Anyway, I’m the last of our generation and I know the Pain you all are going thru. …Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 21, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    So sorry to hear of Keith Jones passing. Somehow I knew something was amiss as I had not seen a comment from Ethelene, Eva Nell or Keith in quite sometime…Prayers for the family…..I loved his stories..
    Wonderful tribute by Paul and Katie…

  • Reply
    a.w. griff
    January 21, 2018 at 11:52 am

    I always enjoy Ethelene’s writings. Sorry for your loss.

    Precious in the eyes of the Lord are the death of the Saints.

  • Reply
    Maxine Appleby
    January 21, 2018 at 10:46 am

    A beautiful tribute to these two treasured members of our Appalachian family. They are truly part of our collective memories and their legacy will be continued by the people who loved them so. Thank you, Tipper, for sharing this memoriam with us.

  • Reply
    January 21, 2018 at 10:34 am

    A beautiful song for a beautiful Sunday morning.

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    January 21, 2018 at 10:33 am

    I’m so saddened of the loss of both and I’m praying for the families. Love this beautiful song and such a fitting tribute. Thanks Tipper.

  • Reply
    William Buntin
    January 21, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Thank you for such beautiful music and a fitting tribute!
    God bless,

  • Reply
    January 21, 2018 at 9:45 am

    I am saddened for the loss to Ethelene Dyer Jones and other members of Keith’s family. I always looked forward to her poetry, and actually felt as though I knew her. We can be assured there is a wonderful promise for those of us who believe in a true and living God. As much as we love Appalachia it will pale in comparison to what our Lord has for us. Go Rest High on That Mountain is another song that soothes my heart about so many of my loved ones who have gone on. Good song by Paul and Katie on this Sunday morn.

  • Reply
    January 21, 2018 at 9:13 am

    May God watch over the Jones and Zimmerman family as they go through this difficult time. Paul and Katie did a beautiful job on the song.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    January 21, 2018 at 8:32 am

    I’m sorry to hear about the passing of Keith Jones. I always enjoyed his guest posts and, to be honest, it is hard to lose these storytellers. As someone who studies symbols and symbol systems, I was really taken by the illustration. Where is that from?

    As always, great music and very fitting.

    • Reply
      January 22, 2018 at 10:17 am

      Ed-Keith had someone make the illustration for him this past fall. He sent it to me just before the JCCFS Storytelling Event. It really captured the spirit of his storytelling style.

  • Reply
    Eleanor Loos
    January 21, 2018 at 8:18 am

    Good Sunday Morning, Tipper and famiy!
    Surely there are more people who can relate to the “Banks of Jordan” getting closer and “O Come Angel Band” is a good reminder. What better song to hear!! Having reached my 80th birthday this past December it’s nice to know of where I intend to meet my Lord! My sister and I have talked often of knowing more people in heaven than down here on earth!
    What an assurance of His grace and mercy! And thanks for your enouragement. Eleanor Loos, Columbia Station, Ohio

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 21, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Sad of us who stay behind but in each case you have a recent blessed memory. Since we must part, it is good to part in the light of a last good meeting. There is an old song that says “you and I must part. And if I never see you again I love you in my heart.”

    And I believe we are sent for and escorted, or at least some are. It may be that the who and the how are unique to each individual.

    JER29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

  • Reply
    January 21, 2018 at 7:21 am

    Sorry to hear of the sad news, but for Christians it’s good news because they’ve reached the mark and accepted the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, Philippians 3:14, this is only a little stopping off place, not our home. The song is a favorite of mine also.

  • Reply
    Wesley P Bossman
    January 21, 2018 at 6:58 am

    Thanks once again for a beautiful musical beginning for a Sunday morning. Very nicely done!

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