Lester Darnell Jones Jr. — better known as “Bud” — never met a stranger.
“If you were new in town, he would come up and introduce himself, and then you would be the best of friends,” said Christa Snoddy, who knew Jones since childhood.
Jones died Saturday after suffering a heart attack while refereeing a high school basketball game in Warrensburg. He was 32. His friends and family gathered Wednesday night at Boonville High School to celebrate Jones’ life at his memorial service. Friends and family shared memories, remembering Jones for his humor, goodwill and selflessness.
Jones found passion in becoming a referee, officiating softball, baseball and basketball.
Jonathan Klusmeyer, a close friend who spoke at the service, remembered a time he and Jones attended a game together.
“During the game, he didn’t pay attention to who was winning,” Klusmeyer said. “He was sitting there making calls.”
Fred Smith, a former teacher of Jones’ and a speaker at the service, complimented Jones’ commitment to student athletes.
“He was there for the kids,” Smith said.
After making a call, Jones would explain to young athletes why he’d made it, making sure they understood.
Fellow referee Rick Petty read the Officials Code of Ethics from the National Federation of State High School Associations. Other referees and umpires in attendance stood for the recitation.
“Officials shall uphold the honor and dignity of the profession in all interactions with student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors, school administrators, colleagues and the public,” Petty read.
Jones was remembered as “fair and generous in his treatment of others,” Petty said.
In true referee style, he always ended his emails with, “Yours in Sportsmanship.”
Candace Bartlett-Wetzel, 32, met Bud in high school after she transferred to Boonville High School.
“He’s known for his miraculous kindness,” Bartlett-Wetzel said. “No matter what the situation or circumstance, he was quick to uplift you.”
Bartlett-Wetzel recalled a comment Bud had left on her Facebook profile: “I don’t have your back. I have your front, because that’s where most people hit you at.”
Friends and family remembered his extraordinary commitment to helping others.
“I’ve never had a friend who was there as much as he was,” Bartlett-Wetzel said. “Bud was the type of person that was so happy. When you looked at him, you became happy as well.”
Jones’ longtime friend Christa Snoddy started a GoFundMe campaign Sunday to raise money for Jones’ family. The goal, $12,000, was raised in three days.
She said the original goal was $10,000 but that the target was raised after the original amount was donated in just 36 hours.
“People who didn’t even know him are donating,” Snoddy said.
The donations are also being used to start a softball scholarship at Boonville High School. Snoddy said that hopefully this scholarship can be continued every year.
Friends and family created a Facebook group Sunday, called “This One’s For Bud,” where people were invited to share memories of Jones. In it, there are posts sharing quotes and texts from Jones, pictures of him with friends and many stories.
One member recalled when Jones helped the family paint a nursery, writing that Jones “just did it because we needed him.”
“He made the biggest impact on everybody,” Snoddy said.
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