Laurie Stone: PNT Correspondent
Jon S. Jonsson was rememberd as a man of great integrity that esteemed and admonished others before himself.
He was a composer of music that dedicated his life’s work and his love for music to the world. According to family members, his greatest contribution to life was demonstrated in his desire to promote the arts for future generations.
Jon S. Jonsson died Sept 4, 2005 at the age of 71. Twelve days before his death, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Jonsson was a sophisticated man of high intellect. He was successful in whatever he put his hands to, according to family members. Because of his engaging talent to create music, he was very successful in Iceland where he first discovered his passion for music. He was a private man that was very witty and had a dry sense of humor. But it was his desire to give back to others, in the gift he had grown to appreciate, that enriched the lives of those attentive to music. He distributed the wealth of knowledge that he acquired through his own successes to those that share in his vision for music at Eastern New Mexico University as their Associate Professor Emeritus of music.
According to Sigrid Jonsson, Jon Jonsson’s wife, He took his role of teaching at the university very seriously. He had the belief that if the arts program was better, then ENMU would be better as well.
“He encouraged his students by showing them the way to excellence,” Sigrid said. “He did not believe that you put your ego ahead of the interest of others.
“He lived by a philosophy that said, ‘What you produce is more important than who you are,’ and he believed in it unselfishly,” she said.
Jon S. Jonsson was born June 17, 1934, in Isafjordur, Iceland, to Thorey Alberts and Jon Magnusson.
He married his first bride, Margret, in Iceland in 1957. She died in 1962. He met his second bride, Sigrid Dyrest, at a social gathering and after a six month courtship they married on Oct. 26, 1963. They were married 42 years come Oct. He studied to be a concert pianist in Iceland before coming to the United States to do graduate studies.
According to Gunnar Jonsson, Jon Jonsson’s son, one of his father’s greatest moments was when his dad received his masters and doctorate degree in a two year period.
“He was real proud that he was able to bring his family to the states and start over,” Gunnar said.
Jonsson earned his master’s degree in music composition from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He completed his doctorate in music from Northwestern in 1965.
He was the founder and first director of the Conservatory of Kopavogur in Iceland, and also directed the Icelandic Singers. He co-edited the cultural page of the largest paper in Iceland and served as their music critic. He taught college at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, N.D., and Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, before coming to ENMU in 1974. In 1980-81, he became the chair of the music department.
Upon moving to Portales, the Jonsson’s stay in the desert plains was only temporary, according to Sigrid.
“We had three teenagers in high school,” She said. “and we wanted our children to be raised in a good place and Portales was what we wanted for our family.”
Jonsson was a dedicated family man that always put his family first. His intense desire to train young minds in the arts also transferred to his own family as he tried hard to keep the fire burning in his own grandsons, which thus far has been a success.
“He struggled to keep the history of music alive,” Gunnar said. “In today’s society, most people do not know who the composers Mozart and Beethoven are. He felt exposing young people to music of all types was very important in order to keep the rich history of classical music genre’s alive. ”