MILTON — Friends and family gathered Sunday afternoon to remember Boston University Professor David K. Jones, who died after he fell through a rusted out, state-owned staircase in Dorchester eight days earlier.
Lois McCloskey, an associate professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University, said Jones “was a light.”
“He brought insights; he brought humor and generosity,” McCloskey said in an interview during the wake at the Alfred D. Thomas Funeral Home. “So, to me he was the unbelievable combination of kind and academically really smart and effective.”
Jones was found about 1:30 p.m. Sept. 11 under a set of stairs that connects Old Colony Road to the Columbia Road overpass near the JFK/UMass MBTA station, authorities said. The stairs had been “deemed unsafe and closed for approximately 20 months,” said David Procopio, a State Police spokesman, and the MBTA had warned the public not to use the stairs.
A wire fence blocked the lower entrance and a jersey barrier and chain link fence blocked access at the top, Procopio said. It is unclear how Jones entered the area.
Jones was an associate professor in BU’s Department of Health Law, Policy, and Management, the Globe reported. He was born in Utah and raised in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York. He attended McGill University in Montreal as an undergraduate and earned his doctorate in health services, organization, and policy from the University of Michigan.
Michelle Sonia Wilkinson, 37, of Weymouth, said she was classmates with Jones at the University of North Carolina in 2007 and that the two had become close friends. She described Jones as a “great, great person” and said his passing was “unfathomable to me.”
“David was just so bright, and he had so much to give,” Wilkinson said. “That’s why this is so tragic.”
She said that when Jones was completing his doctorate at the University of Michigan around 2011, she was also working on a long term project and had to travel to Ann Arbor every week. She said Jones and his family made her feel at home.
“Just getting to hang out and be with them, sort of having family dinners and stuff, because when you’re on the road for work you’re always by yourself in a hotel, so it was nice to just feel like I was back part of a family,” Wilkinson said.
Over the years, she said, she and Jones stayed close.
“Their family comes to my kids’ birthday parties and things, even now,” Wilkinson said.
McCloskey, the BU associate professor, recalled a time when she had forgotten to prepare for a doctoral exam and, “David came to the rescue.”
“He was so kind,” she recalled, “and in an academic setting where a lot of people would have been very judgmental, he said, ‘No problem. Here’s what this was about. I’ll cover you, and don’t worry about it. We all make mistakes.’ ”
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