Jones driving reward for quitting

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JANET HAMOUS
Anyone who feels the health benefits alone are not enough to quit smoking should take a drive in Gary Jones’s new Chevy Silverado pickup truck.

Jones, of Peabody, took the proceeds from his “non-smoking fund” to Hillsboro last month and picked out a brand new pickup truck.

“I wrote out a check and had money left over,” he said.

Jones began making contributions to the fund in the late 1960s, when he was an agriculture teacher at Peabody High School.

“At that time, a lot of the teachers smoked,” he said. “There were three of us who did not smoke.”

One year, an insurance salesman came by to help teachers set up tax-deferred annuity plans.

“We said we ought to invest our smoking dollars in an annuity,” Jones said. “I thought, I’ll invest it now and then buy me a new car.”

The smallest annuity contribution permitted at the time was $10 a month, so that’s what Jones put in.

“Cigarettes were 50 cents a pack, and we decided we would surely smoke $10 a month,” he said. “So the three of us made this investment and I just forgot about it.”

Jones said he stopped contributing to the plan in 1986, but he left the money in the fund.

“I said, ‘Don’t bother my smoker’s fund,'” he said.

When the stock market boomed during the next few years, Jones’ fund grew substantially, he said.

“I just left it until 2003 without ever touching it. By 2003, at $10 a month, it was worth almost $30,000,” he said.

True to his original plan, Jones used the money to buy a pickup.

“It’s the first new pick up I’ve ever owned,” he said. “I bought it from Bob Hein in Hillsboro because he comes to our farmers’ market every week and buys from several people.”

Jones said he doesn’t know what his coworkers did with their funds.

“One of them died, and the other is Ken Preheim over in Moundridge,” he said.

Jones just returned from a trip to Lincoln, Neb., and he said he told his story to two smokers there.

“They wouldn’t believe it,” he said.

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