Roger Jones, of OH WOW! children's center, dies at 89

By David Skolnick


The founder of Fireline Inc. who shares the name of the downtown children’s science and technology center with his wife has died.

Roger Jones died Wednesday. He was 89.

Jones, originally from Buffalo, N.Y., came to the Mahoning Valley in the 1960s, and in 1967, he opened Fireline, which makes industrial ceramic products for the aerospace industry.

“He was creative, he was very attentive, and he always put the employees of the company above everything else,” said Barbara Burley, the company’s president who started working for Jones at Fireline in 1983. “He wanted to make Fireline a special place to work, and he did.”

Fireline, which Jones started in his basement and then a rented garage, employs 107 people at its Andrew Avenue location.

Jones stepped down as president in 2005 and then returned to his roots doing research and development at Fireline until 2009. When he retired, the company became an employee stock-ownership-plan business with workers owning 30 percent of Fireline.

“He wanted to provide people with opportunities believing if you give someone an opportunity, they will succeed,” Burley said. “He had a spirit of generosity. After he retired in 2009, he’d come into the plant regularly. The employees loved him. They will miss him. He was truly a one-of-a-kind individual.”

Jones was known for his philanthropy, including providing scholarships to students at Youngstown State University and making major contributions to the former Children’s Museum of the Valley, which relocated in 2010 to 11 W. Federal St. with a focus on STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]. The facility is called OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology.

“He and his wife were champions of the museum,” said Suzanne Barbati, the center’s president and executive director. “They’ve been supporters of the museum not only financially, but as mentors. They were not from this community originally, but they adopted Youngstown and continued to support the people of this area. He’ll be greatly missed.”

Memorial contributions can be made in honor of Jones to OH WOW!, 11 W. Federal St., Youngstown, OH 44503.

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