Eunice Jones: hard work changes life from rags to riches

Story and photo by LAUREN CARTER

Eunice Jones received her first pair of shoes at 13 years old. They were a gift from her sister, in honor of Jones graduating from the sixth grade at her school in the Philippines. Little did they know, Jones would later receive multiple awards and hold several positions across different business areas in Salt Lake City.

Eunice Jones at the University of Utah.

Jones grew up being the seventh oldest of 11 children, in a very poor family. She was raised in a house that had no running water or electricity, and had to boil water before being able to drink it.

“Food was very, very sparse,” Jones said. “I never saw frozen food until I came to America.”

At a young age Jones started working for money. She would clean her grandparent’s house every weekend for 25 cents. She went on to start selling bags of salt for 25 cents and 50 cents at the local market. And during summer school Jones sold bags of fried dough dipped in sugar to her classmates.

Jones saved up her hard earned money in a piggy bank. And at the end of the summer she had enough money to buy school supplies for her siblings and herself.

“My parents could not give us anything but education,” Jones said.

Jones’ three older brothers and her older sister moved to Manila, Philippines, on scholarships. They gave all of their incomes to Jones’ parents, which eventually brought the rest of her family to live with them in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, in Manila.

“Life changed when I went to Manila,” Jones said. For the first time in her life, Jones’ family had running water, television, electricity and public transportation to get to school.

Jones’ sister sent her through college in Manila. She graduated in the top-10 of her class and was given an apprenticeship at a local press.

Jones later became the single mother of two children. And in 1986, the Los Angeles Hyatt offered Jones a working visa. She left her sons with family and had to leave the Philippines within 30 days of the Hyatt’s offer.

“I only had a suitcase, $50 in my pocket and a dream,” Jones said.

Jones worked for the Los Angeles Hyatt for three years before being able to obtain visas for her two young sons. In 1989, Jones went home to bring her children to live in Las Vegas, where she was working at the Hilton.

Jones got married in 1993 to Blake Jones and two years later the family moved to Utah. Eunice Jones got a job at the Salt Lake City Hilton, where the family lived in the general manager’s suite for two months before buying a house.

“When we lived in the Hilton, it was weird because everyone was cleaning our room,” said A.J. Jones, Eunice Jones’ 24-year-old son.

After Eunice Jones had worked for the Hilton for one year, she said that her work was not challenging and decided to change her career.

She started attending real estate school at night and graduated in 1996. She began working seven days a week as a Realtor. And one year later, Eunice Jones received the Rookie of the Year Honor in real estate.

“If you meet 10 people everyday, you will grow your database,” Eunice Jones said. “My production just started to rise.”

Eunice and Blake Jones opened their own Re/Max office in 2003. They opened it with one Realtor and it grew to be 70 Realtors and independent contractors, before the market crashed.

In addition to her work as a real estate agent, Eunice Jones also plays a large role in the Asian community of Utah. She was the first women president of the Philippine-American Association during her 1999-2001 terms. And she is a co-founder of the Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce.

“I am so honored and happy to be part of this community,” Eunice Jones said.

Jones is currently serving on the Asian Advisory Council and recently gathered members of the community to start a dance group that performs traditional Filipino dancing. Her hope is that it will help keep the culture alive for the different generations of Filipinos who are in Utah.

“She just does it to help people out,” A.J. Jones said. “It is very honorable work that she does.”

Eunice Jones would like to retire from real estate in ten years. Her goal is to buy land in the Philippines so she could live there six months out of the year. “She moved here just for my brother and I. She misses her life and she sacrificed a lot for us,” A.J. Jones said, in support of his mother’s dream of returning home.