'Renaissance Man,' former UCI professor dies

Highly regarded scientist, food and wine expert and educator Joie Pierce Jones died June 23 after years of failing health. He was 72.

A memorial service will be held for the longtime Laguna Beach resident later this year, date and location to be announced.

"He was a special man," said Becky Jones, his wife of 48 years. "He will be missed."

The Joneses moved to Laguna Beach in 1977 when he was appointed professor of radiological sciences at UC Irvine.

"He knew he wanted to live in Laguna," said his wife. "He had a good friend and colleague whom he had visited here. The first thing he did was show me Bird Rock and Main Beach."

While a professor at Irvine, Jones pioneered new developments in ultrasonic imaging and tissue characterization, acoustical microscopy and non-contact ultrasonic imaging. He holds multiple patents.

He was founding president of the Orange County Chapter of the Acoustical Society of America. He was also active with Laguna's Environmental Committee and gave freely of his expertise to the city on numerous occasions, particularly on the issue of telecommunications towers.

His expertise was also sought nationally.

Jones served on President Jimmy Carter's scientific advisory board. He played a similar role in President Barack Obama's first campaign and served as an advisor to the Obama administration on energy and medicine. He was a consultant to the Department of Energy on the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

His wife said he was honored to serve on a special committee under the Secretary General of the United Nations to investigate solutions for global warming.

Jones' interests were broad. Besides science, he was active in the arts. He was the founding president of the UCI Theater Guild and served as president of the Laguna Beach Chamber Music Society. He was a gifted musician, who played first chair cornet in the Texas state high school band.

Jones loved good food and good wine. He was a black-hat member of the California Wine and Food Society, serving for a decade as the group's wine committee chairperson. He wrote a food and wine column with his wife.

"Joie was a Renaissance man," said former Mayor Neil Fitzpatrick, a member of a dinner group to which the Joneses belonged.

"He was interested in everything and the kind of guy who made you feel good when you saw him."

Jones showed early signs of what was to become his life's work. He was a Texas high school student when he built a rocket to measure radiation in the upper atmosphere. The rocket rose 52 miles, a record that still stands, for which Jones won the National Science Fair.

The win earned Jones the opportunity while a student at the University of Texas, Austin, to work during summers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. He participated with teams that worked on the early moon and Mars landing projects.

Jones earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics and physics and his master's degree in mathematics at Austin. He also was an honor student in English and philosophy.

The Joneses met at the university when she was a sophomore and he was a senior. They married in 1965.

"I graduated and he got his master's one week and the next weekend we married," said Becky Jones.

The couple spent the next years in Rhode Island, where Jones earned his doctorate from Brown University.

After graduation, Jones became interested in medical applications of ultrasound, research he pursued as a consultant at Bolt, Beranek and Newman in Cambridge, Mass., as a faculty member at Case Western University in Cleveland and at Irvine.

In recent years, he explored alternative and complementary medical modalities, especially the relationships between Eastern and Western medicine, according to his wife.

Working with colleagues, he made landmark discoveries about the nature and mechanisms of acupuncture. Working with Pranic healers (a biofield therapy) in a laboratory setting, Jones conducted pioneering controlled experiments that established the healing power of subtle energy. He interacted with the Chopra Foundation, Andrew Weil's program in Arizona, and the Friends of Health organization.

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