Carnation historian, community leader Isabel Jones dies at 98

If Isabel Jones couldn’t answer your question about Carnation history, then it was probably lost to time.

Fascinated by the town she called home her whole life, Jones saved every newspaper clipping, photograph and story she could find. Always found with a scrapbook in hand, she pioneered the Tolt Historical Society and Museum, while authoring three books on Carnation across three different decades.

Jones — who died May 21 at the age of 98 — left an indisputable impact on the preservation of Carnation. But, to those who knew her best, that meticulous devotion to her town and preserving its past was rivaled only by her vitality and warmth that even into her later years never seemed to subside.

“She had this cane on her 95th birthday and she was still bopping around the senior center,” said Suzanne Lassman, Jones’ daughter and youngest child. “As long as she was around people, she was happy.”

Jones was born in Carnation on Aug. 22, 1923, as the sixth of seven children of William and Mary Larson, just about 11 years after the town incorporated. It was also before the town decided — once and for all in 1951 — to change its name from Tolt to Carnation.

She was raised on a farm that her father took over from her grandfather that’s now Carnation’s Swiftwater neighborhood, living there until she graduated from Tolt High School in 1941.

After a year working at the post office during her senior year of high school, earning between $42 and $52 a month, Jones spent a few years at the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company. In 1943, Jones (then Larson) married Bennett (Ben) Jones at the Congregation Church in Carnation and moved into a home next to Ben’s parents. The couple had three children: James, Greg and Suzanne.

Later on, Jones founded the Tolt Historical Society in 1982, spending four years as its president, telling the Snoqualmie Valley Reporter in 1991 that after the society was founded that she “realized we should get our history down before it’s too late,” and that her mom was a “walking history book.”

Ever since the society formed, Jones had been looking for a permanent home for a museum, which found a home in 2019 at the Hjertoos House. Originally, the museum was inside the Sno-Valley Senior Center, where she was a frequent volunteer.

“Carnation has a history in good part due [Jones’] strong efforts to get these stories together,” said Lisa Yeager, the director of the senior center.

Yeager recalls Jones frequently serving as a greeter for the center’s meals and events, seeming to know everyone in town and always willing to swap stories and bring people together. She also remembers how happy Jones was on her 90th birthday, knowing she had made an impact.

“She was deeply involved and embedded in this community,” Yeager said. “She was a beautiful woman inside and out with a sense of style about her that will never be forgotten.”

Jones’ connection to history is also how she met Carey Tremaine, who runs Tremaine investments out of Tolt Hall in Carnation and is a member of the Historical Society.

In 1995, Tremaine, at that point an out-of-towner, bought Tolt Hall, the site of a 1913 hotel and later apartments where Jones had lived as a child. Unsure of the building’s history, Tremaine took an interest and knowing almost no one in town, started attending historical society meetings to look for documentation. That’s where he met Jones.

“I was warmly accepted,” he said. “Isabel invited me into the inner circle and if I was Isabel’s pal, I was pals with a lot of other people.”

Tremaine recalls how Jones never missed a chamber meeting and was “staunchly” against profanity and drinking. The two became good friends, with Tremaine even taking over as the historical society president. In his office at Tolt Hall, Tremaine still keeps an inscribed copy of Jones’ book, “A History of Tolt/Carnation: A Town Remembered.”

Today, Tremaine remembers simple stories about their relationship like running into Jones at the hardware store or the time he accidentally called her Izzy.

“Oh boy she got, I don’t know about the red in the face, but she said ‘don’t call me that ever,’” he said.

Over her lifetime, Jones touched just about every aspect of Carnation, never wanting to be out of town for more than a few weeks because “she had things to do” and meetings to attend.

About 20 years ago, Suzanne moved next door to Jones in Carnation. Today — living in the same house — she still marvels at the energy her mom had, whether it was going out to square dance or golf with Ben or making sure that her garden was well kept and her geraniums were placed on the gravestones of her relatives each year.

Into her 80s she would say “I’m going to the senior center to get those old people riled up,” or mow her lawn and say “I just want the neighborhood kids to see this old lady do this,” Suzanne recalled.

Suzanne called her mom her best friend, someone she would spoke with constantly and could share anything with — a sentiment that was widely shared.

“People have commented that going to the grocery store and post office isn’t as much fun because you don’t see Isabel,” she said. “I hope people remember her smiling face and the caring and giving person that she was.”

A memorial service for Jones will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. June 18 at Congregation Church in Carnation.