It’s a Wednesday morning at the Donut Parade, and Darrell Jones, who runs the general operations of the store, is working as usual. The bakery is covered in balloons and filled with throngs of friends and loyal customers, but Jones, despite turning 80 years old this day, cannot be slowed down for more than a moment.
Jones has been baking for 40 years and has worked at Donut Parade for 35 of them. He says he tried to retire at age 70, “but I just didn’t want to quit,” he said.
The obvious question, then, is what keeps Jones coming into work day after day?
“Take a look, listen,” he says. “That’s it.” Jones is referring to dozens of people gathered in the small, aged bakery, sitting at long tables while sipping coffee and chatting. He knows most, if not all of them, personally. It’s clear they know him, as a constant stream of people approached him to wish him happy birthday.
Jones was born in North Carolina, where he lived for 16 years. He then lived in Florida for a time. After two years in the Army, he moved to Spokane in 1947. He met his wife, Catherine, in Spokane in 1954; she has worked alongside him all 40 years. He moved to California in 1960, but eventually found himself drawn back to Spokane eight years later.
“Spokane is a city that doesn’t change too much, except for downtown,” he said. “It still has a small town flavor. You have connections and contacts you would have in a small town. That’s really nice.”
While talking and greeting well-wishers, Jones was suddenly interrupted by the cry of a whistle. Two sisters, Lorraine White and Linda Witty, marched in with handfuls of balloons, a present and a sign. They led the shop in a round of “Happy Birthday” before sitting down with a couple of doughnuts and some drinks.
White and Witty have been coming in to celebrate Jones’ birthday for the past 15 years. They do so in recognition of the kindness Jones had shown their father when he used to come in regularly.
“My dad used to come in two to three times a day,” White said. “No one in Spokane … treated my dad as good as Darrell did.” Her father died in 1983.
The sisters are continually impressed by Jones’ commitment to his work.
“I think it’s amazing,” Witty said.
White agreed. “It’s outstanding,” she said. “It’s not very often someone can carry on a duty like this at age 80.”
Bill Thompson, who has known White and her family for 40 years and is also an occasional patron of Donut Parade, also chimed in. “I think he’s a remarkable man, one of the best.”
Although he admits an increasingly painful knee is giving him some trouble, Jones shows no signs of slowing down. “Might as well work as long as you feel good,” he says. “Keeps you going.”
Not even the birthday celebration could get in his way for very long. “I just had to start taking some of those damn balloons down,” he said good-naturedly. They were making it difficult for him to keep working.
He says the secret to his vitality is healthy living. “Eat healthy, don’t ever take a cigarette, and don’t ever touch a drop of liquor,” Jones said. He quit smoking 45 years ago.
Jones uses an adage to express how he’s been able to work for so long. “Find a good job and you’ll never work a day in your life,” he says.