Betty and Eugene Jones, 11/05, Norwalk Hour.

Eugene and Betty Jones.

Keeping up with the Joneses.

"Active Wilton Pair Defies Stereotypes of the Elderly."
by James Walker, Norwlk Hour Staff Writer,, 11/14/05.

Some people need no introduction.

Through the years, Betty and Eugene Jones' accomplishments have been written about in newspapers, their images splashed across television screens and hung outside theaters on marquee posters while their names have been emblazoned in lights outside concert halls.

And if that isn't enough, their names have been scrawled on the pages of history due to either to their part in a worldwide scandalous trial or because the footprint of their lineage traces back to a significant event in America's past.

Many people would be happy to rest on their laurels after having received the Connecticut Arts Award or having had scholarships named in their honor. But for the couple from Wilton, aging with attitude is about a world filled with laughter; keeping their marriage fresh; and preparing for the next concert, dinner party or adventure.

Betty Jones sailed past dozens of photographs of well-known people and theatrical posters into the music room of her home, singing one of the arias she has performed with the Bournmouth Symphony in England, with the Stockholm Symphony in Sweden and on stages from Carnegie Hall to Boston with conductors Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Fiedler.

Her voice confidently rides up several notes before she stops and looks over with a wink.

“Everything still works, baby,” she said.

At 75, Betty Jones is sassy, spiritually revealing, passionate about life, quick with the one-liners and has no problem telling visitors she became an opera singer late in life for the man she loves.

“I wanted my husband's complete attention,” she said.

And for the woman whose uncle was the first Executive Secretary of the NAACP and was responsible for opera singer Marian Anderson being the first black woman to sing at Carnegie Hall, getting a lot of attention is what she's used to.

And so is her husband, Eugene, 80, an engineer who has garnered accolades for his expertise in the construction of bridges throughout the U.S., Europe and Africa and has helped build airports in China.

Their home is a testament of a body of work that includes newspaper clippings of Eugene being called in as an expert witness at the trial of Edward Kennedy during the infamous Chappaquiddick Bridge incident, where Mary Jo Kopeche was killed, or in images of Betty Jones dramatically costumed in one of her many operatic roles.

“We've worked all over the world,” she said.

And the Joneses are still working.

Eugene keeps busy on the board of trustees at the Goodspeed Opera House and the Maritime Aquarium, and Betty stays occupied tutoring about 50 “opera hopefuls.”

Betty said aging with attitude is about being spiritual, keeping up with the latest medicines and getting up at 7 a.m. to an exercise routine that includes walking, push-ups and weightlifting.

“I don't know I'm 75,” she said. “When my body falls apart, I'll move out.”

But moving on to a higher plane is not what Betty is about, as she has proved to herself aging is only about numbers. The celebrated opera singer didn't make her operatic debut until age 41.

“He's the one that loved opera,” she said, pointing to her husband. “I raised my children first. After that, I said, 'If that's the way to keep him, I'll do it.' The most important thing is the health of the marriage. I'm singing next week at a soiree.”

The Joneses’ life continues to center around music, and until recently, the boat they had for 32 years — the “BettyGene,” in which they have sailed around the United States.

Betty is still performing “Opera Antics,” — a one-woman show that includes excerpts from the operas of Rossi, Wagner, Verdi, Bernstein and Gershwin, along with musicals and jazz tunes. She first performed the show in 1987 and said it keeps her on her toes, as she proudly displays a CD from the performance that has sales worldwide.

“When I get up to sing, I make people happy,” she said. “And my sense of humor makes them laugh.”

But for Eugene Jones, the culmination of his wife's career might have happened in 1986, when the state awarded her its Arts Award and celebrated her with a black tie dinner and a 30- minute television special shown on Connecticut Public TV throughout the state.

The award has been given to legendary artists such as Marian Anderson and jazz artist Dave Brubeck — a fellow Wilton resident. And whenever he has a break from an energetic schedule that includes speeches he gives to various organizations in Wilton and Darien, Eugene likes to pop in the video of the public TV special into the VCR and sit down amongst the posters of his wife and largescale drawings of the bridges he helped build to revisit that night.

“I watch this all the time,” he said, slipping in the video.