Good­will ges­ture has nice ring to it

1987 Grey Cup cham­pi­onship me­mento re­turned to player’s fam­ily at no cost

Regina Leader-Post - - SPORTS - GERRY MOD­DE­JONGE

From two-time Grey Cup cham­pion to mak­ing head­lines for all the wrong rea­sons af­ter be­com­ing home­less on the streets of Win­nipeg at one point, Mil­son Jones hardly has the squeaki­est of clean lega­cies.

But thanks to the self­less ef­fort of a com­plete stranger clear across the coun­try, mem­o­ries of bet­ter times have been brought home for the Jones fam­ily.

Promi­nent Ot­tawa busi­ness­man Wal­ter Pamic had been look­ing to re­u­nite Jones with the 1987 Grey Cup cham­pi­onship ring the for­mer Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos full­back won on the way to be­ing named Cana­dian MVP of that cham­pi­onship game.

Pamic bought the ring at Em­pire Auc­tion in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal in 1996, and mostly kept it tucked away at the back of a closet.

“I only wore it out to sport­ing events, usu­ally, if I went to see a Red­blacks or Rough Riders game,” said Pamic, who had no prior knowl­edge of the ring’s his­tory or the name etched on it.

“No­body could un­der­stand why some­body would give up some­thing so pre­cious.”

All Pamic knew was he wanted to give it back. While he wasn’t able to track down the for­mer player, he did get in touch with Jones’s son, De­von, through so­cial me­dia.

“I sent him a mes­sage and said, ‘Hey, by any chance would you be Mil­son Jones’s son?’ ” Pamic said. “He didn’t re­ally re­spond right away.

“He told me that when peo­ple called look­ing for Mil­son, it was never a good thing.”

At least, there haven’t al­ways been pos­i­tive in­ten­tions.

“We were pretty hes­i­tant at first,” said De­von, es­pe­cially since Pamic sim­ply wanted to give the ring back, not sell it back.

“This type of stuff doesn’t hap­pen un­less you’re in Hol­ly­wood writ­ing scripts. His only stip­u­la­tion was, ‘If I give you this ring, I hope you keep it.’

“It’s com­pletely over­whelm­ing be­cause for as much trou­bles and hard times have found my dad, he’s still a won­der­ful guy. He’s just got prob­lems that are big­ger than him. Men­tal ill­ness and such are just preva­lent.”

Jones could not be reached for this story.

“Un­for­tu­nately, my dad is still on hard times,” De­von said.

“He’s back in Win­nipeg now and, un­for­tu­nately, he’s not do­ing too well.

“With me­dia, we kind of keep tight-lipped about it be­cause a lot of the time, he’ll get painted a vil­lain and all that. We don’t want to com­pound his is­sues. Any­body who knows him knows the sit­u­a­tion.”

Some­where along the line, Mil­son sold not only his 1987 ring, but also the ’89 Grey Cup ring he won with the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers.

De­von has a the­ory why.

“It was most likely to keep the fam­ily safe,” he said. “It is what it is, and it is just amazing that it’s come full cir­cle now.”

That process be­gan back when De­von, now 31, started fol­low­ing in his fa­ther’s foot­steps while grow­ing up in Ed­mon­ton, hav­ing played ju­nior foot­ball with the Ed­mon­ton Wild­cats along­side his brother Tris­tan, 33, who ended up set­ting the Cana­dian Ju­nior Foot­ball League record in 2006 for most points and most rush­ing yards in a sea­son.

Their ear­li­est mem­o­ries are of run­ning around Tay­lor Field while their dad played in Saskatchewan, hand­ing them a ball or two in the stands fol­low­ing a touch­down.

While those are the mem­o­ries the ring rep­re­sents, they have had to take the good with the bad, in­clud­ing the ar­rest of their fa­ther, which cul­mi­nated in a Win­nipeg court in 2005 with a guilty plea to pos­ses­sion of co­caine, at­tempt­ing to cash a stolen cheque and steal­ing meat from a store.

“I haven’t shown it to him yet— I’d have to travel to Win­nipeg with the ring — but we’ve had a cou­ple of con­ver­sa­tions, and he’s pretty speech­less when it comes to that stuff,” De­von said.

“I don’t talk to him too of­ten, but when I do, I just like to catch up and keep it light and see how he’s do­ing.”

While the ring made its way back to Ed­mon­ton in 2016, De­von fi­nally got the chance to meet Pamic face to face on March 29, while in town at­tend­ing meet­ings.

“It’s just so nice to have it back in the fam­ily, most ev­ery­body just kind of breathes a sigh of re­lief. It just feels good to have that part of his legacy re­stored,” De­von said. “I told him, ‘Thank you doesn’t do jus­tice for what you’ve done.’

“I’ve been closer with my dad than maybe the rest of the fam­ily, and to have that con­nec­tion back and be able to hold it and know he did great things — for the fam­ily, not just in foot­ball — and not to men­tion the ring, what’s it val­ued at?”

The Eski­mos priced that year’s ring at $10,000, which co­in­cides with an ap­praisal Pamic had done, which came back in the $10,000 to $15,000 range for ma­te­ri­als.

A col­lec­tor would have to do their own math.

“(What) sort of closed the loop for me, was ac­tu­ally get­ting to meet De­von in per­son and get­ting to spend some time with him,” Pamic said.

“He’s a won­der­ful young man. He’s had a tough life with his poor dad and ev­ery­thing.

“I think I’ve got­ten more out of this my­self than they have. It puts a smile on my face, I’m just so happy for them. I’m glad the ring is back where it be­longs.”

Mil­son Jones’s son, De­von, left, dis­plays his fa­ther’s 1987 Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos Grey Cup cham­pi­onship ring along­side Ot­tawa busi­ness­man Wal­ter Pamic, who bought the ring at an auc­tion in the mid-1990s and has since re­turned it to the Jones fam­ily at no cost. Mil­son Jones was the Cana­dian MVP of that 1987 cham­pi­onship game and also won the 1989 Grey Cup with Saskatchewan.

BRYAN SCHLOSSER/FILES

Mil­son Jones, right, helped the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers win the Grey Cup in 1989.

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