On Friday, Dec. 22, almost two dozen people gathered on a cold, clear afternoon at First Avenue and Marion Street to celebrate the life of Jonas Stone, a Real Change vendor known for his mission to make people smile.
Stone would stand at that corner for up to six hours a day and greet people disembarking from the ferries with his papers and a colorful sign that simply said “smile.” Stone was an institution, who doggedly tried to bring people out of their sometimes grim shells.
“There are so many people walking around downtown like they’re the last person on earth,” Stone told Chris Miller, a contributing writer for Real Change in 2006.
His gambit must have worked — the Friday morning ferry announced the memorial over the speaker and folks came to sign a card, hold up “smile” signs, eat pizza and share remembrances of the man that they had all come to know, including fellow Real Change vendors and drivers of a local tour company. They spoke of his love of music, especially “Friends in Low Places” by country music star Garth Brooks and his passion for taking care of others.
Dani Wyatt, a vendor who had known Stone since she was a child, said that Stone was the one who encouraged her to join Real Change and had helped her learn to stand up for herself. And, of course, to smile.
“Did you drop your smile back there?” he would ask her.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
Known for holding a 'SMILE' sign, Real Change vendor Jonas Stone passes away
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