Oh Wow Officials Reflect on Gloria Jones’ Legacy

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Gloria Jones left a legacy that will impact generations of children and families, the founding executive director of the children’s science center that bears her name said Thursday morning.

Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology issued a statement this morning acknowledging the death of the center’s co-founder.

Jones, the eldest child of Edgar and Josephine Olson, died in her sleep June 1 after a brief illness, according to an online obituary. She and her late husband, Roger, whom she married in 1957, founded Fireline Inc. in Youngstown but likely are better known in the Mahoning Valley for their support for Oh Wow.

In the news release, Oh Wow officials said the couple founded the science center “with a shared vision to create a center where young minds could explore the wonders of science and technology” and praised Gloria Jones’ “passion for education and dedication to empowering youth,” which “led to establishing a vibrant institution that has enriched countless lives.”

In 2008, the Joneses provided $50,000 in seed money to support the transition of what was then known as the Children’s Museum of the Valley to a center focused on the STEM disciplines – science, technology, education and mathematics – and provided $250,000 the following year to assist with the museum’s relocation to the McCrory Building. In 2016, they provided an additional $1 million endowment to support its long-term growth and survival.

Roger Jones died in 2017.

In back are, from left, Nils Johnson, Oh Wow board secretary; David Jones and Marvin Logan, executive director. In front is Gloria Jones. The Jones family – Gloria, her late husband, Roger, and son David – were presented an award at the InSciTe Gala in May.

In May, Oh Wow presented the Jones family – Roger, Gloria and their son, David – with a Lifetime Achievement Award at its inaugural InSciTe Gala.

“Gloria is as much of the fabric of this place as the support beams in the walls. It was her endorsement that led the organization to improve our storytelling around the impact of our work,” Marvin Logan, Oh Wow’s executive director, said in the news release. “While her passing deeply saddens us, we are so fortunate to have been allowed to honor her while she was with us.”

Suzanne Barbati, Logan’s predecessor as executive director who retired as director of planned giving in February, described Jones as a friend, mentor and confidante during a phone interview Thursday.

“She was a force to be reckoned with, and she left a legacy that will impact generations of children and families to come,” she said.

“Gloria Jones leaves a legacy that will continue inspiring future generations to embrace the wonders of science and technology. Her vision, dedication and commitment to the community will be deeply missed,” Wiley Runnestrand, chairman of Oh Wow’s board of directors, said.

The obituary on the website of WM Nicholas Funeral Home & Cremation Services in Niles, which is handling the arrangement, reported that a memorial will be held in August. In addition, Logan said in the news release that Oh Wow will have “special recognitions” to honor the Jones family.

“We would not be here without them; their story is worthy of acknowledgment,” he said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.