Remembering Elizabeth Orton Jones (1910-2005)
Elizabeth Orton Jones was born in Highland Park, IL on June 25, 1910 or "half-past Christmas" as she would say. She was affectionately known to her friends as Twig, named for the title character of her book published by MacMillan in 1942. In 1945, Miss Jones won a Caldecott Medal for her illustrations in Rachel Field's book Prayer for a Child. She later moved to Mason, NH where her one-time home (now "Pickity Place") served as the inspiration for "Grandma's House" in her illustrated edition of Little Red Riding Hood, published by Little Golden Books in 1948.
Her relationship with Crotched Mountain predates the opening of the rehabilitation center in 1953. At the request of founder Harry Gregg, Miss Jones was engaged to paint a series of Four Seasons murals especially designed for the girls.
She and her friend and colleague Nora Spicer Unwin, who painted a companion set of murals for the boys, were the very first volunteers at Crotched Mountain. Each of the seasons represents a different aspect of home: spring - cleaning and decorating; summer - raising and caring for children; fall - preparing and serving food; winter - offering hospitality and sharing blessings.
Ironically, Miss Jones never completely finished the murals. Her devotion to the children surpassed her devotion to the project. She encouraged the boys and girls to explore their own interests in art, poetry, and was always glad to lend a sympathetic ear. After helping the children to put on their very own Christmas pageant, Miss Jones was inspired to write about this experience in her book How Far is it to Bethlehem?, published by The Horn Book, Inc. in 1955. In 1963 she again employed her artistic talents on behalf of Crotched Mountain by painting a Spring Panel and an Autumn Panel especially designed for the rehabilitation center's meditation chapel.
Over the years, she kept in touch with several of the children she had first met at Crotched Mountain. In 2002, Miss Jones was honored by Pastoral Counseling Services of Manchester, NH for her dedication toward improving the lives of people with disabilities and their families with their Good Samaritan Award. The following year, a number of the very first children to have attended Crotched Mountain returned to the rehabilitation center to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the murals and reminisce about the impact Elizabeth Orton Jones has had on their lives.