Kammer Beach on Tinian is now called Jones Beach, in honor of the life and contributions of late businessman Kenneth Thomas Jones Jr., who built a cattle ranch and farm on Tinian in the ’60s to raise crops on 7,500 acres of land that he called “Bar K Ranch.”
The Tinian and Aguiguan municipal government and legislative delegation officially renamed the beach last week, in time for the opening of the Triple J-owned Tinian Western Lodge and its Bar-K-Diner and Drive-In.
Jones was already an established businessman in Guam and Saipan in the ’60s when he extended his vision to Tinian, providing not just employment opportunities to its people but also creating a bustling economy that gave Tinian the reputation of being the “bread basket of the Marianas.”
Jones’ wife, Elaine Cruz Jones, who is currently in North Carolina, said it’s been decades since she’s been on Tinian “and the best memories I have of Tinian are the people, the church, school, and everything. …It may be a memory now but…it was one of the memorable times of my newly married life when I was there.”
When she asked him what he’s going to do with all the land, he replied that he was going to plant vegetables. “He had already brought in cattle from New Zealand and he wanted to expand the herd and produce fresh and healthy milk not only for the people of Tinian but also for the Payless Market in Guam and Saipan if he produced enough. His goal was also to make cheese and have a butter making factory,” Elaine Jones added.
His daughter, Ramona L. Jones, chief executive officer of Jones & Guerrero Co. Inc. and is now based in Guam, who grew up spending time and working at the farm, said her father brought in Charolais cattle from New Zealand because he felt that the hardiness of the cattle will do well on Tinian.
“But he decided from the beginning he also needs to find a local cattle to have them breed and that’s why he brought the cattle from Rota and Tinian to have heartier breed specific to Tinian. …Different managers came from Australia and Hawaii because he wanted to get the expertise of professional educators and ranchers but he ended up taking the advice of all the local folks like Uncle Freddy Hofschneider and Sylvestre Palacios,” she said.
Jones earned the trust of the people of Tinian as he was inclusive and down to earth. As a farmer himself, he knew how to embolden and encourage people to work on the land. “My father was born in North Carolina in 1917. …He knew that the heart of the farm is the people working in it,” Ramona Jones said.
This was echoed by Elaine Jones who experienced the solid relationship her husband created with Tinian people. “Ken would work with them in the fields and the people of Tinian knew that this man is not here to make a fast dollar and take off. He was loved and respected by the people whom he hired to work at the farm,” she said.
The very same farm workers knew that the area of the beach that is now called Jones Beach was Jones’ favorite spot. “It was known as Jones Beach in the old days because our employees would say, ‘Let’s go to Jones Beach!’ and now it is official. …It was one of his favorite places to go to, especially when the children are with us as we would go there to swim, climb the rocks and Ken would call me, ‘C’mon, Mama!’ Elaine Jones said.
“He was such a nature lover and to be on that beach that is now named Jones Beach is beyond expectation. …To give him that honor is beyond my comprehension and, really, beyond kindness. I’d really like express my sincerest thank you whoever thought of the idea,” Elaine Jones added.
The Bar K Ranch was eventually sold when the conditions dictated it. The people who worked on the farm continued to be ranchers and farmers.
Their family were not able to attend the ceremony on Tinian due to COVID-19 concerns but Ramona was able to witness the renaming ceremony online. “…Those men and women who knew my Dad and worked with him were gritty pioneers, had great sense of humor, and courageous. …For people to look back and remember it fondly, to laugh at stories…just shows courage, determination and a wonderful time to be a part of that group and history. …I just can’t believe after many decades…the people of Tinian would come up with something so heartwarming to the Ken Jones family to remember what he left behind on Tinian. Thank you, too, to Uncle Rob [Robert E. Jones of Triple J] who designed the sign and it was so nice of him to recognize his brother,” she added.
It was in 1966 when Kenneth Jones, with his own hands, started cultivating the land on Tinian and 55 years later, he is remembered for how he valued the people of Tinian and vice versa. “My fondest memories are all connected to Tinian. …Best days of our lives were sitting under the ironwood trees on that beach, eating popcorn with the children. …To dedicate the beach that my whole family love is beyond comprehension and I hope to give back the generosity and recognition someday,” Elaine Jones said.
“If Ken was alive and heard about this dedication, there will be no such thing as a decorum with him. Like a real cowboy he would be jumping up and down from his seat and saying thank you while waving his hands in the air. …I promise when this pandemic is over, I will go back to Guam and make that trip to Tinian,” Elaine Jones added.