Muriel “Mike” Jones stood to a rousing applause. In her arms, two dozen roses, and still more graced the stage, totaling 63 - one for each year of her federal career.
Flanked by a Navy admiral and an Army general, Mike Jones stood as a symbolic bridge between the old and the new, the past and the present, the former and the future. Although she began and ended her career in the same building, the flag ship of military medicine now bears a new name - Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).
To the surprise of many, including her own children, Jones, 83, announced her retirement late last year and WRNMMC honored her with a ceremony on Jan. 9.
“I really thought she would die at her desk or walking the halls with somebody, she’s such a social creature,” said her daughter Teri Jones, who recalled learning her A-B-C’s as a child helping her mother file at the then National Naval Medical Center (NNMC), a predecessor to WRNMMC with the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“I’m so proud of her, I really am,” Teri continued in speaking of her mother. “She imparted her work-ethic to the rest of us, too. She would work 10 to 12 hours a day, five, six or seven days a week. She was raising three of us by herself,” she said.
Mike Jones decided to retire due to vertigo, which affects her balance and requires her to walk with a cane, she said. Once once the issue is resolved, she plans to come back as a volunteer, “if they’ll have me,” she added.
“She would work another 63 years if she could; she loves this place,” said her son Michael, who remembered spending time with his mom on the job at an early age with his sister and younger brother David. Michael recalled one thing that his mom taught him by her commitment and work at the medical center — “Tell the truth. Bad news doesn’t go away. Just deliver the bad news, get on with the program and move forward.” Notorious for her shoot-from-the-hip, give-it-to-you-straight manner, Jones was known to ruffle a few feathers while delivering the truth — her truth anyway, she said.
“I could always count on Mike for a 100 percent honest assessment,” said retired Vice Adm. (Dr.) Adam M. Robinson, who served as keynote speaker at her ceremony. “I could always count on her to tell me what I needed to know — and that was the truth.”
Robinson said he first met Jones when he was a resident at the hospital in 1978. “She had been here 28 years when I got here,” he grinned. The retired vice admiral, who also served as the 36th Surgeon General of the United States Navy from 2007 to 2011, called Jones “a top performer” and “servant leader” with much success and many accolades throughout her “continuous and devoted service.”
When she began her federal career as a clerk-typist at the former NNMC in 1950, Jones earned less than $3,000 a year, she recalled. In the personnel department is where she remained for the next 63 years, holding more than 15 different positions, she estimates. “I’ve done everything in personnel that there is to do — every specialty.”
Cited for providing invaluable historical background for WRNMMC, Jones served on the transition team which helped with the consolidation of NNMC and WRAMC histories, artwork and historical artifacts, on display throughout the command. The octogenarian ended her career as a special assistant to the director of administration at WRNMMC.
Work at the medical center was surely a family affair for Jones. After her first couple of years at the hospital, she convinced her mother, Virginia Kirby, to leave the bank where she was employed to join her at NNMC. Kirby worked at NNMC for more than 20 years until she fell and fractured her hip. “If she hadn’t had the fall on her hip, she wouldn’t have retired, either,” Jones recalled.
Jones’ son Michael worked briefly as a carpenter at the hospital, and daughter Teri attributes her career in health care to the time she and her two brothers spent with their mother at work. Throughout her six decades here, Jones worked under 30 different Navy hospital commanding officers, including Robinson, who served as NNMC commander from 2004 to 2007. Current WRNMMC Hospital Director Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark is the first Soldier to serve in that leadership position. He expressed gratitude at the retirement celebration for Jones.
“Miss Jones, this gathering is a tribute to you. You are loved by so many people here at Walter Reed Bethesda. It’s also a tribute to your family,” said Clark. “Ma’am, thank you for your service ... It’s an honor for each and every one of us to be here.”
“To those who know her, Mike Jones is an institution,” said Sandy Dean, WRNMMC Public Affairs Officer.