2017-04-06 / Life in Leelanau

Writing helps 86-year-old man journey through grief

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


LEELANAU TOWNSHIP resident Trevor Jones, who is 86, wrote his book, ‘Samaritan Adventurer,’ after the death of his wife Kay as a way to deal with his feelings. It is his first book. LEELANAU TOWNSHIP resident Trevor Jones, who is 86, wrote his book, ‘Samaritan Adventurer,’ after the death of his wife Kay as a way to deal with his feelings. It is his first book. When Trevor Jones’ wife Kay died in October 2015 just two days before their 56th anniversary, Jones found himself at odds with the world — lonely, depressed and bored.

So Jones, who is 86, channeled those feelings into a book.

“It occupied my mind, got my mind off the situation and got it into creating,” Jones said.

The plot of “Samaritan Adventurer” mixes fact and fiction, with the first 16 chapters of the firstperson account based on Jones’ childhood and early adult years.

In the book the main character, who is also named Trevor, takes a road trip across the country, going as far west as Laramie, Wyo.

Jones also took a trip, though he only traveled as far as Ashland, Wis., located on Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior.


TREVOR JONES has two labs — Sam, in front, and Molly — who have kept him company after the death of his wife Kay in 2015. The Leelanau Township couple had been married for 56 years. TREVOR JONES has two labs — Sam, in front, and Molly — who have kept him company after the death of his wife Kay in 2015. The Leelanau Township couple had been married for 56 years. Along the way Jones stopped at small towns off the beaten path to talk to people who lived in those towns, keeping a log of his adventures.

“I would seek out guys having coffee first thing in the morning and waitresses and whatnot,” Jones said. “The trick is getting these guys to open up, to tell their stories from when they were kids.”

Those stories were woven in with Jones’ own recollections and incorporated into the book.

One memorable story — and the inspiration for the book’s title — happened to Jones in the 1960s in Luther, a little town south of Cadillac where he and his two buddies went hunting every year.

The threesome usually slept in a travel trailer one of the guys owned, but he had sold it that year. It had been raining all day and they decided to sleep in his buddy Rex’s Suburban instead.

“We were soaking wet. We weren’t dressed for continuous rain all day, and we didn’t get any deer.”

Rex’s wife was due to have a baby in two weeks and he wanted to call her and make sure she hadn’t gone into labor. That was before cell phones and Luther had one payphone and every hunter in town was lined up to use it.

After making the call, the three of them went into a little party store, where they decided they would hang out as long as they could and dry out before bedding down.

The woman who owned the store found out what they were doing and took them home for the night, putting them up in her two spare bedrooms. She also put their clothes in the dryer and got up at 6 a.m. to make them breakfast.

“She wouldn’t take any money, but each of us left a $20 bill under our pillow,” Jones said. “We all gave her a good hug, thanked her ever so much and headed out ... That’s where the idea of the Samaritan came into play.”

In chapter 17 the book starts developing into a love story when Trevor meets the fictional Connie, a widow whose husband was killed in a farming accident.

Connie’s family members are all farmers in central Nebraska, with most of the characters based on people in Jones’ real life. Using people he knows was a way for Jones to visualize those who populate his story.

None of the characters are based on Kay, Jones said, as that was just too personal.

Connie is based on “California Connie” Perron of Suttons Bay. His next door neighbors Phil and Julie King are in the book under made up names, as are Theresa Marie and Gary Sobkowiak of Lake Leelanau, though Gary is “George” in the book.

“In the book George is described as being a character,” Jones said. “Gary is a character.”

Many of those friends helped Jones with proofing, reading the unedited manuscripts and giving it their approval.

Jones and Kay were both born and raised in Kalamazoo. He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts from Western Michigan University and worked as a parts manager for three different car dealerships, with the last one in Traverse City.

The couple moved to Leelanau Township in 1979, having bought a piece of property on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Cherry Home Shores in 1974 for the whopping price of $7,900. He built a two-bedroom home and he and Kay moved in.

He got a job at Northport Building Supply in 1980 and worked there until about seven years ago, when he quit to take care of Kay, who had gradually become disabled after tripping and falling off their porch.

When it came time to publish the book, Jones sought the help of Mary Jo Zazueta and her Traverse City business, To the Point Solutions. Zazueta edited the book and got it into print, with Jones having just 100 copies made.

“It was more a labor of love than profit,” he said.

The first copy went to Helen Shiley, a retired nurse who lives about a mile down the road from Jones. Shiley took care of Kay in the last few hours of her life, he said.

Shiley and Jones are still friends.

“We get together about once a week to chat about things,” he said. “She accumulates things that need to be repaired and I fix them.

The second copy of the book went to Perron and the third went to the Sobkowiaks.

Jones still drives and he heads to Tucker’s once a week to bowl with a group of friends. He also plays the clarinet with the Northport Community Band and attends Leelanau County Senior Services monthly lunches held at restaurants around the county. A sequel to “Samaritan Adventurer,” which often kept him writing until 7 a.m., is not likely in the plans.

“When I typed ‘the end’ ... whew,” he said.

Copies of the book are available in Northport at the Pennington Collection, Dog Ears Books and at Northport Building Supply.

Return to top