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Columbia Missourian

Twila Jones, 71, was a passionate nurse and had a love for Elvis

By Morgan Denlow
September 19, 2013 | 8:05 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Twila Leigh Jones' love of Elvis came only second to her great love of nursing. 

For more than 25 years, she worked as a registered nurse in the oncology department at Columbia Regional Hospital and often shared her passion through vivid storytelling. 

"She had a way of making it bleed into everyone's life," said Karen Willingham, Mrs. Jones' daughter, who is following in her mother's footsteps and working toward becoming an RN.

"She had the highest cheek bones and this long silvery hair," Willingham said. "She would grow it all the way down to her waist and braid it. She loved it long, but at work she would put it up, and she was all business. She was one of those old school nurses that wore the white skirt, shoes and cap. She was like a Florence Nightingale — a nurse through and through."

Twila Jones of Columbia died Wednesday, Sept. 18. She was 71. 

She was born on March 27, 1942, in North Platte, Neb., to George Leroy and Isla Vivian Rowley Lookhart.

Mrs. Jones married twice, the first marriage ending in divorce. Her second husband, Brian Jones, from Great Britain, died earlier. He worked in hospitals too, fixing radiation equipment.

Mrs. Jones' love of Elvis was widely known in her family and started when she was a teen. 

"If there was music on, it was Elvis," her brother Larry Lookhart said. "Records, cassettes, CDs—she had it all. All 45 records." 

Mrs. Jones was greatly loved by her family, and it was clear she loved and cared for her family too. Several family members recounted stories about their relationship with her. 

"As a kid, she used to tell me that no one else is allowed to pick on you. Only I can do that," her brother George Lookhart said. "In fact, we just had a laugh talking about that just a week ago." 

Mrs. Jones suffered from an illness called vasculitis for about the past 20 years of her life. Due to her illness, she didn’t get out of the house very often. 

“Every time I went out with her, it seemed like everyone knew her, and I just couldn’t figure out how,” Larry Lookhart said. “Her doctor told me she was the one of the longest living patients with that illness. It’s hard living with it for 20 years. But she fought until the end. The doctor thought she was done on Monday, but she held on for three more days. 

“She wasn’t very big,” he said. “She was often teased about her height, and she had a lead foot. She liked to go fast. Back in the '60s the highway patrol had to stop by our house and tell our dad that they didn’t know who was driving his car, but they couldn’t catch them — it was always her.”

Mrs. Jones also enjoyed playing the piano, filling out Wheel of Fortune crossword puzzles and baking.

“She loved making fudge. She would make perfect fudge,” Willingham said.

Mrs. Jones is survived by her son, Robert Heckathorn; her daughter, Karen Willingham; her brothers, George Lookhart and wife, Judy, of Manhattan, Kan., and Larry Lookhart and wife, Lynn, of Columbia; her two sisters Karen Chase and husband, Pete, of North Platte, Neb. and Pame White and husband, Jack, of San Luis Obispo, Calif.; and several grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Memorial contributions can be made to Cancer Research Center, 3501 Berrywood Drive, Columbia, Mo.

Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home. Services will follow immediately after at Parker Funeral Service. Burial will be in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Ashland.

Condolences can be left for the family at