Former Greeneville Sun co-owner, columnist Arne Jones dies

Authored 'cheerful chatter' for 33 years


Martha Arnold Susong (Arne) Jones, who played a variety of significant roles at The Greeneville (Tenn.) Sun for some six decades, died Friday, Dec. 16, at Laughlin Memorial Hospital. She was 101 years of age. 

Mrs. Jones, one of the community's most widely known citizens, who had enjoyed strong health throughout her life despite her advanced age, was unexpectedly struck with several health problems early Thursday, and admitted soon thereafter to the intensive-care unit of the hospital.

She died peacefully shortly after 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 16. Her five children – John M. Jones Jr., Alex S. Jones, Gregg K. Jones, Edith Jones Floyd and Sally Jones Harbison – were at her bedside.

The widow of former longtime Sun publisher John M. Jones, who died in late July, Arne Jones was a co-owner of the newspaper with a few other close family members from the late 1940s until earlier this year.

She was also an active member of the board of directors of the Sun and its parent company, Jones Media, Inc., for some three decades.

In addition, Mrs. Jones had a wide circle of warm friends in both Tennessee and U.S. newspaper industry circles from the 1950s through the 1990s.

Her best-known newspaper role, however, was as the longtime writer of the extremely popular "cheerful chatter" column in the Sun, which for many years was published each Saturday across the top of Page A-4, the first page of the Sun's Living section.

She wrote the column weekly from late June 1974 through late June 1999, and wrote it or contributed to it as a monthly (rather than weekly) column from July 1999 through late June 2007, for a total of 33 years.

She was 92 when she retired from that responsibility.

Followed tradition
In writing "cheerful chatter," she followed in a tradition established by her grandmother, the late Quincy Marshall O'Keefe, who was editor of the Sun's editorial page from 1920 until her death in 1958 as well as a popular and widely-quoted columnist for the paper who wrote her columns under the logo, QMO, her initials.

The columnist tradition was carried on by Mrs. Jones' mother, the late Edith O'Keefe Susong, publisher of the Sun and its predecessor newspapers from 1916 until her death in June 1974.

For 25 years from 1949 until her death, in addition to her duties as publisher, Mrs. Susong wrote an upbeat, community-oriented potpourri column she called "Cheerful Chatter" each Saturday. Although the column was published without a byline, it was widely known that she was the writer.

At Mrs. Susong's request, after her death Mrs. Jones, her daughter, began writing the column, although, in modesty and in deference to her mother and her mother's column, Mrs. Jones insisted on changing the name slightly to "cheerful chatter." 

As before, although her writing was not signed, it was generally known that she was the author of the column, which was one of the Sun's most popular features under both Mrs. Susong and Mrs. Jones.

Mrs. Jones also authored a well-received article on the role of the community newspaper for Presstime, then the nationally circulated official publication of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, later the Newspaper Association of America and now the News Media Alliance. The article was written at the magazine's request.

Throughout her life she formed and maintained close relationships with many current and former staff members of The Greeneville Sun and its affiliated companies, and many of the staff members' families.

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