February 2, 1924 ~ April 16, 2011
Leslie (Les) Bulin Jones, 87, beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend, died April 16, 2011 of heart failure. Born February 2, 1924 in Los Angeles, Les was the only child of Marilla and Percy Jones. Marilla, a singer, came from a musical family, so Les started playing the piano, mostly by ear, as a young boy. Due to Marillaâ€™s tuberculosis and early death when Les was nine, he had a peripatetic childhood, living variously with his maternal grandparents, who gave him naps on the wooden benches at the Hollywood Bowl while his grandfather practiced with the orchestra; his paternal grandparents, who owned a gas station where he sometimes worked; and his father. For a brief while, Les was sent to military school, which he detested.
Les attended numerous high schools, including Redondo Union, because of his many changes of residence. He graduated from Manual Arts in Los Angeles, where he learned gymnastics â€“ as a young adult he liked to do an occasional front flip, with a whoop, while running down the sand to dive into the ocean. As a kid, he rode the Red Cars all over Los Angeles for a nickel, and started driving at 14.
Les served as a Navy radio operator on the Foss, a destroyer escort in the North Atlantic and North Africa during World War II. He sometimes fell asleep on deck, only to be shocked awake by cannon fire. In 1945 he helped celebrate the warâ€™s end by playing the piano in a Florida pub. He spent the summer of 1948 working at the Air Force base in Fairbanks, Alaska. In November he and two friends decided to return home, so they bought â€“ in Lesâ€™s words â€“ â€œa throbbing, knocking rattletrap of a black, rusty two-door Ford Model A sedan with fold-down front seats and no back seat, from a man called Moose who assured us the car was in top condition and used practically no oil and gas, offering us worry-free transportation back to the lower 48.â€ Moose lied about the carâ€™s condition, but somehow they made it down the Alaska Highway and to Minneapolis, where Les caught a bus to Los Angeles. That bus ride started a lifelong hate relationship with fleas and their animal carriers, because he contracted typhus fever â€“ borne by fleas â€“ and nearly died.
Back in Los Angeles, Les earned a business degree at Woodbury College on the GI bill. In 1949 he met the love of his life, Jean Thomas Clarke, a beautiful blue-eyed brunette with a social work degree from Washington University in St. Louis, at the Mobil gas station in Manhattan Beach. Les drove up on a motorcycle to the station, where Jean and one of her United Airlines stewardess roommates, Pat, had gone to seek advice about a used car. Jean and her three friends were living at 900 Strand in a two-story frame house; they needed transportation to LAX for work. The four young women pitched in together to buy a Ford recommended by Les. A little later Jean and Les fell in love.
Jean and Les were married February 3, 1951 at St. Margaretâ€™s Church in Washington, D.C., near Jeanâ€™s parentsâ€™ homes. Their first home was a back house on Tenth Street in Manhattan Beach, where Les used a flashlight and â€œHey! Whatâ€™re you doing?â€ to scare away a would-be auto repossessor one dark night. They lived briefly in Echo Park, bought their first house in El Monte, and moved to Hermosa Beach in 1952, just before starting a family. They raised their four children in Manhattan Beach, with lively backyard activities from fort construction to gardening to volleyball to surfboard building to Dudley the big white duck. As a duckling, Dudley (later found to be a she) crawled up Lesâ€™s pants leg, tickling him; he took off his pants to avoid hurting the little quacker.
The Jones home on Eleventh Street welcomed many of the childrenâ€™s friends, for whom Les liked to cook bacon and make chocolate malts. The family also enjoyed countless trips to the beach, where everyone swam and rode surf mats, plus camping trips, surfing trips, musical efforts (Les on piano, Brandt and Joel on drums, Taylor on trumpet, Susie on clarinet), and construction of a Big Bear cabin. Starting in the early 1970s, Les and Jean became avid skiers, a sport they continued into their 80s. They also have played volleyball for many years with the Marine Street seniors, their dear friends. Les had to quit playing in summer 2010 due to his health. However, he continued enjoying an almost-daily sojourn to the Starbucks at Target, where he drank frappucino, plus Thursday morning trips to the Redondo Farmerâ€™s Market.
Les worked as a real estate broker for over 30 years, first for Al Wilson on Highland Avenue, then for himself â€“ â€œLes Jones Real Estate: For the Home Youâ€™ll Be Proud to Ownâ€ â€“ in a little office on the corner of Pine Avenue and Manhattan Beach Boulevard. In 1960 Les and Jean built two patio-centered office buildings on the site.
He is survived by wife Jean, sons Brandt (Jean) of Solvang, E. Taylor (Patty) of Poway, and Joel (Patty) of Redondo Beach, daughter Susan Brakel of Redondo Beach, and many grandchildren. The memorial service is set for Saturday, April 23 at 1:00 at
St. Cross Episcopal Church, 1818 Monterey Blvd., Hermosa Beach. No ties: casual wear preferred!
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