AKRON - Robert H. Jones, beloved father, husband, grandfather, mentor, distinguished historian, professor and author, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. He was born in 1927 to Merton Oakes and Ethel Huhn Jones in Chicago, Illinois. He earned a Chicago Public Schools scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago, which he renewed through his high school years. He attended the University of Illinois but was drafted into military service during his first semester. He served in the signal corps of the United States Army for 18 months. He returned to the University of Illinois in 1947. In 1948 he married Estelle Marie Long, also of Chicago. They had two children, Robert Paul and Judith Carolyn. Robert received his Ph.D. in 1957, working under Pulitzer Prize winner Fred A. Shannon.
His first teaching position was at Kent State University, where he taught Civil War history among other history subjects, from 1957-1963. While there, he published his first book, 'The Civil War in the Northwest', in 1960. On leave from KSU he spent 1962 as a Visiting Research Professor at his alma mater. In 1963, Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University) hired him to teach Civil War history to undergraduate and graduate students. In 1967 he published 'The Centennial Years', an edition of an unfinished manuscript by his mentor. In 1969 he then published 'Roads to Russia: Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union'.
In 1971, the University of Akron made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: to become chair of the History Department and help them establish its new doctoral program. In 1973, his newest book, 'Disrupted Decades: The Civil War and Reconstruction Years', was published. The next few years became very busy because of his service on the Stow Board of Education from 1968-1980. He also served on the Stow City Board of Tax Appeals and in 1978 the Stow Jaycees presented him with its “Distinguished Service Award.”
In 1980 Estelle died; the third term on the school board ended; and he changed his residence from Stow to Akron. In 1982, he married Hedy Julie Kish and gained four stepchildren: Kevin, Jennifer, Gretchen and Leonard. For five years in the 1980’s, Robert served on the Patricia Robert Harris Fellowship Award Panel and other committees for the U.S. Department of Education. In 1989, he won a Center of Excellence grant from the state, which would provide several million dollars for two years for the history department.
After 18 years as department chair, Robert retired January 1, 1990. In 1994, along with Caroline Pardee, he published 'My Dear Carrie: The Civil War Letters of George K. Pardee and Family'. That book was followed in 1998 by 'Fields of Conflict: The Civil War and Reconstruction in America'. Hedy became Robert’s research assistant for his final book, 'Guarding the Overland Trails: The Eleventh Ohio Calvary in the Civil War', published in 2005.
Robert and Hedy enjoyed their retirement years, traveling “out west,” and to Europe, as well as visiting children and grandchildren scattered throughout the country. He greatly enjoyed spending time with his family and colleagues, continuing to meet weekly for lunch with the ROMEOS (Retired Old Men Eating Out). His family and friends will always remember his twinkling eyes, generosity, stories and of course, the famous carefully-measured martinis with anchovy stuffed olives.
He was preceded in death by his parents, first wife and his son. He is survived by loving wife, Hedy; their children, and grandchildren Eric, Matt, Esme, Nicholas, Dylan, Kaio and Owen. He will be greatly missed.
Due to the current health situation, there will be no calling hours. A memorial service will be held as soon as safely possible. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to the University of Akron earmarked for the History Department, Akron, OH 44325; or the charity of your choice.