Faces of ALS: Ina Turner Jones

lesturnerFaces of ALS, Foundation Blog, Home Page

“When I was told that Lester had ALS, I couldn’t even pronounce the word,” said Ina Turner Jones. “I don’t remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, but I remember the doctor’s speech verbatim.”

Ina Turner Jones, widow of Les Turner and a founder of the Les Turner ALS Foundation, has passed away. She is survived by her husband Bob Jones, her sons Alan Turner and Brian Turner and their families.

When Les Turner was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 36, Ina was a constant source of support for him, along with their three young boys Alan, Brian and Jonathon. She helped launch the Les Turner ALS Foundation in Les’s memory and remained involved for more than forty years after his passing.

“The Foundation always had a big piece of her heart,” says Harvey Gaffen, her brother-in-law, Chair Emeritus and one of the founders of the Les Turner ALS Foundation. “She was heavily involved in engaging with the ALS community and helping others understand ALS and what a difficult disease it was. She talked about what it was like with Les and always made herself available to the families and patients in getting through the disease.”

Les and Ina

Harvey recalls when Les and Ina first met.  

“Bonny, Ina’s younger sister, and I were engaged at the time,” says Harvey. “After they met, Les and I became close.”   

After his diagnosis, Les, his friends and family came together to start a foundation that would raise funds to provide vital research and resources to people living with ALS and their families.

In 1977, the Les Turner ALS Foundation was officially launched. Les passed away the next year. 

Ina continued to participate in many Foundation events, including the Hope Through Caring Gala, ALS Walk for Life and the Mammoth Music Mart, whose origins she recalled fondly. 

“People from different neighborhoods would go around looking through people’s garbage and taking (discarded records),” recalled Ina in 2022. “Lester came up with the idea – why don’t we sell the records if people want them so badly that they’re taking them? We thought that this might be a lucrative thing to start. I was amazed at him coming up with that.  

“We didn’t know if people would show up, especially since we charged admission. But people lined up for blocks. It was so gratifying. We had the late Dick Clark as our honorary chairperson. Bonny, Grandma Ethel, one of the board members, and I handled all of the volunteers during the 25 years. Near the end I had to get 600 volunteer slots filled to run the sale for 11 days. Most of the volunteers would come back year after year. The music sale really put the Foundation on the map.” 

Until 2002, the Mammoth Music Mart attracted music lovers from across the country thanks to donations of LPs, 45s, cassettes, CDs, sheet music and musical instruments. One song in particular brought back special memories for Ina. 

“In the beginning when the Music Mart would open, we’d play the Barry Manilow song, ‘This One’s for You,’ and that was the start of the music sale,” said Ina. “It was played on the loudspeaker for 24 years, so the next time that you hear that song, remember that this one’s for Lester.” 

Ina endured other profound losses over the years, including her son Jon, who was struck and killed while riding his bike. He was 26. “The loss of her youngest son was something that weighed on Ina the rest of her life,” says Harvey.

An active person, Ina stayed busy by keeping physically fit through Pilates, tennis and bike riding. Most recently, she was a member of the Foundation’s Gratitude Group.

“When supporters receive a personalized thank-you note from one of our founders, it stops them in their tracks,” says Lauren Ferguson, the Foundation’s Donor Relations Specialist. “This act of kindness makes a profound impact on our friends, and ultimately strengthens the Foundation family bond.”

Ina took pride and joy in carrying on her family’s legacy.

“It’s important to spread the word about ALS,” said Ina in 2022. “Let people know. Whoever you know might need us. We’re there for anybody who has ALS because it’s a very lonely journey. People need help, but many don’t know where to turn. People living with ALS matter, and I think that everybody needs to know that they matter.”

“Ina’s passing is a reminder that when someone is lost to ALS, there are people who will feel that loss for many decades to come,” says Erin Reardon Cohn, chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. “More than 45 years ago, Les, Ina, Harvey and their friends were determined to ensure that people living with ALS and their loved ones would have the resources, support and hope for a cure that was unavailable in 1977. Today, everyone who supports the Les Turner ALS Foundation shares in that incredible legacy.

“We’re so grateful for everything Ina contributed to this organization and the ALS community. She proved that while loss remains with us, nothing outlasts love.”

Above (top): Ina Turner Jones, Bonny Gaffen and Andrea Pauls Backman