Ted Jones loved Provincetown with a passion. More precisely, he had four, his husband, Peter Petas, said: “affordable housing, the history of Provincetown art and architecture, the removal of single-use plastic containers from the environment, and his garden.”
Theodore Thomas Jones died at New York Presbyterian Hospital on Jan. 11, 2023. He had been diagnosed with metastatic gastric cancer on Christmas Eve. Ted was 65.
The youngest of Frank and Bea Jones’s four children, Ted was born on Aug. 13, 1957 in Edina, Minn. and grew up in that leafy Minneapolis suburb. From a young age, he was curious and fearless. A family story has it that, when he was four, he borrowed his five-year-old brother’s two-wheel bike and rode it five miles to his grandmother’s house, his dog running along beside him. His brother had not yet learned to ride the bike.
His father owned a lumber company where Ted learned how to work with wood and drive a forklift. He was an excellent student, graduating from Edina East High School in 1975 and enrolling at the University of Minnesota that fall. Although he entered in the class of 1979, Ted remained in college for seven years, completing a double major in English and art history with a minor in photography.
Wanting to write, Ted took a job as a journalist with the Minneapolis Star and Tribune in the early 1980s, starting with obituaries before covering local news. In 1985 he pitched a story on the odd museums of England — which would, of course, require that he travel there. The article, on the Toy Soldier Museum in Norfolk, the Derwent Pencil Museum (“home of the first pencil”), the Dog Collar Museum in Leeds, and the Royal Coaches Museum at Buckingham Palace, was syndicated nationally.
Ted left the paper to look for work in New York City in 1991. His first job there was with Home Mechanix magazine, where he was the remodeling editor. He subsequently worked as an editor for the Times Mirror Company and the New York Times Magazine Group, writing on remodeling. He wrote features for American Homestyle and Gardening.
On March 15, 1992, Ted met Peter Petas at a bar in the East Village. Peter gave Ted his business card, and when Ted called, they arranged to meet the following Thursday. But Ted called back an hour later. They went out the next day, and ever since, Peter said, “We made each other laugh every day.”
Ted was intrigued by history and its lessons for social change. After reading that Andrew Carnegie had helped build public libraries in 1,419 small towns, Ted delved into that story. His book, Carnegie Libraries Across America: A Public Legacy, published by Wiley in 1997, is the only comprehensive history of the libraries Carnegie built.
“Many people believe that when you’ve seen one Carnegie library, you’ve seen them all,” Ted wrote, “and nothing could be further from the truth. Each library was a separate and intentional design effort to construct a landmark. Each played a surprisingly important role in the vast social changes that occurred at the turn of the century, which include women’s suffrage, museum development, the movies, the budding labor movements, education, philanthropy, and other vital issues.”
The year 1997 was also when Ted and Peter bought an apartment together in New York City. That summer, Ted found a place in Provincetown’s East End that allowed vacationers to bring their dogs. Ted had had no idea about Provincetown’s thriving gay culture, Peter said. One week in the East End in 1997 turned into many more weeks in subsequent years.
In 2005, Ted and Peter bought the Flagship — the remains of the old-school restaurant opened in 1935 by Manuel Francis “Pat” Patrick that had replaced a prohibition-era nightclub next door to the Beachcombers on Commercial Street, according to David W. Dunlap’s Building Provincetown.
They settled in year-round in 2007 and spent 2012 renovating the building into a single residence. Ted’s reverence for history showed in the changes the couple made, including bringing the house back down to its original 1911 configuration and keeping the Flagship’s 1940s-era dory bar. “The spirit of the Flagship endures, though it’s a private home now,” wrote Dunlap. “And as long as there’s a dory bar in place, there will always be a Flagship.”
Ted loved the texture of his daily life, especially living in the Flagship and gardening. When people paused in their walks to admire his garden, “he would always engage,” Peter said, “and his garden was much admired and photographed.” During the pandemic, his garden was included in the Provincetown Art Association and Museum’s virtual video tour of the town.
Ted cared deeply for Provincetown and its history as an art colony. He served on the historic district commission, and he worked with Sustainable CAPE to introduce a single-use plastic water bottle ban that the people of the town overwhelmingly supported. At the time of his death, he was working on a proposal to restrict all future development in Provincetown to affordable housing, to be presented at Provincetown’s annual town meeting in the spring.
It was a running joke among family and friends that neither Ted nor Peter could ever remember when they were married. For the record, they were married on March 15, 2014. In their more than 25 years together, Peter and Ted never fought, Peter said, adding that “Ted was just a really kind and compassionate person.”
He is survived by his husband, Peter Petas of Provincetown and New York, brothers Dick Jones and wife Louise of St. Paul, Minn. and Chip Jones and wife Megan of Edina, Minn., and sister Betty Strong, also of Edina; by his mother-in-law, Virginia Petas of Hartsdale, N.Y., and sister-in-law, Alexandra Pappas and husband Dean of Katonah, N.Y.; and by many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, and grand-nephews. Ted was predeceased by his father-in-law, John Petas.
He also leaves his faithful canine companion, Dash, who was named after an elaborately embroidered collar in the Dog Collar Museum in Leeds.