ALTAMONT — The Effingham County Fair lost an integral part of its operation on Saturday.
County Fair Board Treasurer Bill Jones, 78, was pronounced dead at 10 a.m. Saturday at HSHS St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital, after he collapsed in the secretary's office at Effingham County fairgrounds, according to Effingham County Coroner Duane Guffey.
Fellow office workers downstairs responded to a noise coming from the second story building and found Jones unresponsive. CPR was performed until ambulance personnel arrived. Guffey said an autopsy was performed and the preliminary cause of death appears to be a heart attack.
Fair board member Wilbur Schaefer said it was “a sad day at the fair,” with the passing of Jones, who had served as treasurer on the fair board for 12 years.
He also served on the Altamont City Council and was active at the First United Methodist Church in Altamont.
“He was an intelligent guy," said Schaefer. "He was a nice guy."
The board will decide on a replacement for Jones at a future meeting, he said.
Fair Board President Phil Hartke said Jones was working upstairs preparing for upcoming events at this week's county fair at the time of his collapse.
“He loved the fair,” said Hartke. “He was a very good supporter of the fair. He put the fair first.”
Hartke said Jones would often say, “We always need to do what's best for the fair.”
His son, Curt Jones, said his father was involved in many different things for as long as he could recall.
"He was constantly serving other people," said Curt Jones of Kinmundy. "That's what kept him going. He loved serving people. That's how he was."
Jones was elected to his third term as Altamont commissioner this past spring and was overseeing the Department of Streets and Alleys. He had also served as the Finance Commissioner for the City of Altamont.
Former Altamont City Commissioner of Public Works Gerald White Jr. worked with Jones on city matters.
“He was a retired banker,” said White. “He had lots of business experience, which fit well with his work on the city council and the fair board.”
White also noted Jones' other qualities.
“He was very thoughtful. And he was just all around a nice guy. He will be missed.”
Altamont Mayor Jason Rippetoe said Jones' death is a "tragic loss to the City of Altamont."
Rippetoe said Jones' vast amount of experience and expertise was an asset to the city.
"He dedicated many years on the city council and he will be missed," said Rippetoe.
Being new to office, Rippetoe said starting on Monday he will be looking at the steps needed to replace Jones on the City Council.
His obituary can be found on Page A5.
Dawn Schabbing can be reached at email@example.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 138.