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Cover of Summer 2006 Issue

A Longwood Legacy to the Third Power

Kent Booty, Associate Editor

Editor's Note: This story was written last year and includes interviews with Mary Frances Wood Jones, '76, before her sad and untimely death last spring.

Abby, Bonnie and Courtney JonesAbby, Bonnie and Courtney Jones could be called the ABCs of Longwood. In fact, the license plate on their ’99 Suzuki Grand Vitara reads “3-ABC.”

The recent Longwood graduates are not only sisters. They’re also triplets. “We were born one minute apart – that’s why we were named ABC,” says Courtney, the youngest. “The doctor who delivered us called us Baby A, Baby B and Baby C.”

The triplets, whose older sister and late mother also graduated from Longwood, are not identical. “In fact, our older sister, Jessica, doesn’t even think we look like sisters,” says Courtney. She and Bonnie look somewhat alike. Abby is shorter than either, with a darker complexion and darker hair. Courtney is often told she looks like the actress Sandra Bullock, though she doesn’t see a resemblance (ironically, she once won Miss Congeniality in a pageant, just like in one of Bullock’s films).

“Unlike some twins or triplets, we’ve never lived in a bubble where we just hung around with each other,” says Bonnie. “We’ve never had a problem socializing; we’ve always been able to make friends. We’re all outgoing. Jessica is the same way. And even though we have similar interests, we’re very different people.”

The triplets, who are from Arrington in Nelson County, lived together a block from campus in a house their father bought in the summer of 2002 shortly before they entered Longwood. Their freshman year, their sister, Jessica Jones, ’03 (who teaches health education at a middle school in Charlottesville), lived with them, and the last two years a friend has shared their house.

“My mom wasn’t taking any fertility drugs – she just wanted another child!” says Courtney. “She gained only 23 pounds during her pregnancy, and only in her stomach. If you had seen her from behind, you wouldn’t have even known she was pregnant.”

Mrs. Jones learned she was carrying triplets during the fourth month of her pregnancy. “I was concerned because I was gaining more weight in the stomach area than with my first daughter, so I decided to have an ultrasound,” she said. “When my obstetrician was listening for a heartbeat, he said ‘There’s more than one; it sounds like twins.’ A few minutes later he picked up the third heartbeat and called in his partner just to make sure. I was already trying to figure out how I was going to tell my husband it was twins when the doctor said I was having triplets. When I went to my husband’s office later that day and handed him a picture from the ultrasound that said Baby A, instead of Baby Jones like with our first daughter, he was quick to catch on that something was up. When I pulled out the Baby B picture, he said ‘Oh no, it’s gonna be twins.’ Then when I pulled out the Baby C picture, he blanched and said ‘This isn’t funny anymore!’”

The triplets’ arrival expanded the Jones family from two kids – sister Jessica, then 2 1/2, and a 16-year-old half-brother, Joey – to five. “When mom brought us home, Jessica at first would help with the diapers, but after a few days she would say ‘Mommy, can we take them back?’” says Courtney, laughing.

How does a young mother handle three babies plus a two-year-old? “It took a lot of getting organized and staying on schedule,” said Mrs. Jones, who taught and worked in personnel and as a benefits coordinator. “When push comes to shove, you learn to adapt real quick. I don’t know if I was organized before that, but I got real organized after they showed up. You never know what you can do until you have to do it. It helped that I’d already learned how to be a mom with one child.”

The girls, who moved from Virginia Beach to Nelson County when they were four, grew up as self-sufficient as boys, thanks to their father’s insistence. “We always told our dad he should have had boys,” Courtney says. “We’d repaint the blacktop and mulch and put up fences. We did everything – inside work, outside work. Jessica did, too. Dad made sure we grew up independent; he didn’t want us to have to depend on guys.” Adds Abby: “I should have been a guy. I know how to ride a tractor – I’m the John Deere girl!”

In high school all three of them played several sports, and all of them still like to work out. Courtney was homecoming queen and prom queen (sister Jessica also was homecoming queen), and the other two were in the homecoming court.

Only twice have all three been in the same class: in kindergarten (“the teacher figured it would be easier for mom to visit the class,” says Courtney) and in a science class in high school. “The teacher in the science class didn’t think all three of us were sisters; he thought maybe two of us were,” says Courtney. “So when mom had to sign something, he would ask why she signed for all of us. Even when we showed him baby photos, he still didn’t believe us. He would say ‘Oh, those are just three cute babies.’” At Longwood, Bonnie and Courtney had three classes together, and Bonnie and Abby had one class together. “From living with me, Bonnie knows when I can’t quite express something, and she’ll explain to the teacher or the class what I mean,” Courtney says.

The triplets agree that Bonnie and Abby are more outspoken than Courtney, who is nice almost to a fault; she invariably offers a cheerful “You have a nice rest of the day” when saying goodbye. “We’re all completely different,” says Abby. “Courtney’s the happy one, Bonnie is kind of a quiet conservative, and I’m more on the edge. Bonnie is the most like mom, both in appearance and personality. She loves to argue, and she’s good at it. We know not to mess with her when she has her eyebrow raised, just like mom.”

Courtney views her triplet status with nonchalance. “People ask us ‘How does it feel to be a triplet?’ But it’s just like we’re sisters; I always tell them they’d have to ask mom or dad. Growing up as a triplet, I never once felt like I was special. With five girls, including mom, my dad was always out-numbered and overruled! But I don’t think he would trade us.

“We’re all easy to get along with, and each of us has her own personality. Abby isn’t afraid to tell you exactly how she feels, which can be good and bad, though she’s a little quiet at first. Bonnie is also a little quiet at first. We all have our little arguments, like all sisters, but we get along fine. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for each other. I’ve lived with my sisters this long; I think I can handle it a little longer!”

Bonnie echoed those thoughts. “We get along surprisingly well. Sometimes we fight, but we don’t hold grudges because we know we have to live with each other. We get over it ... There’s never a dull moment with us, even to this day.”

Abby also says it’s no big deal being a triplet. “It’s kind of fun, especially since people think it’s interesting, but I just feel like we’re close sisters. You’d be surprised: when people find out we’re triplets, sometimes they’ll ask “OK, now what is your birthday, and what is her birthday, and what is her birthday?, as if we all have different birthdays. Or they’ll say ‘If I pinch one, will the others feel it?’”

Courtney, the first to be interviewed, was asked if they’ve ever had boyfriend-related problems. “I knew you were going to ask me that! We have a rule: if someone breaks up with their boyfriend, that guy is not allowed to date any of the other sisters. Each of us has a boyfriend now, but we wouldn’t do that to each other anyway. Fortunately, all of our boyfriends get along well. Bonnie is protective even though she’s only a minute older; she treats me like I’m 12 or something.” Courtney’s and Bonnie’s boyfriends graduated Longwood in May, 2005, and Abby’s boyfriend graduated from Lynchburg College in 2004. Bonnie’s boyfriend helped get Courtney and her boyfriend together.

Although she was an aluma, Mrs. Jones didn’t steer her daughters toward Longwood. “Jessica went here because she wanted to teach, Abby wanted to go here all along, and Bonnie was thinking about George Mason,” says Courtney. “But when she visited the campus she didn’t like how big it was, so she decided to come here. I wanted to attend JMU, though I had liked Longwood ever since I came here for Girls State. When I wasn’t accepted at JMU and my dad bought the house, I figured ‘Why not Longwood?’ I’m glad I came here. At a bigger school I wouldn’t have gotten involved in so many activities my freshman year.”

Their Farmville home the past four years has been a two-story, Victorian-style house. “My father figured it’d be cheaper if he bought a house,” says Courtney. “We’d been told that as freshmen we had to live on campus unless we were commuting, so we became commuters. Our mom had to stay in the house with us during the week.” Their father, Irvin C. (Jim) Jones Jr., who runs an inventory company called Omnicount, recently sold the house.

Courtney, who graduated magna cum laude, is now a marketing coordinator for Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group in Virginia Beach. Abby is a health educator for the Virginia Beach Health Department in the area of emergency response and preparedness. Bonnie has moved to Greenwood, SC, where her boyfriend lives, and works in customer service for Velux, a nationwide manufacturer of skylights based in Greenwood.

Abby, Bonnie and Courtney have made their marks at Longwood University – a true Longwood legacy that will most assuredly continue with future generations.