This is a big year for Dave Jones.

He will take part in a 40th class reunion as a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

He will also return to Napa and, as a former three-sport athlete for Napa High, will be inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame during a dinner and awards program on Sept. 17 at Embassy Suites Hotel in Napa.

The 15th annual Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony will also honor four athletes from the class of 1996: Katie (Fontana) Abbott, Brooke Dunton, Keri Starr (Nelson) Hamby and Derek Stephens. 

“I just think it was the best growing-up experience any young guy could have,” Jones said over the weekend from his home in Doylestown, PA. “Everybody was supportive, whether it was teachers or parents or coaches. It seemed like everybody was involved in your life, everybody cared about what you did. The entire community participated. There was always somebody looking out for you.”

Jones, an airline captain for US Airways, will be returning to Napa for the first time in five years. When he looks around town, he’ll see a brand new Memorial Stadium with a seating capacity of 6,400 and upgrades to Napa High’s parking lot with new landscaping features.

When he walks into one of the ballrooms of Embassy Suites on that Saturday night in the fall, he’ll be welcomed by the Hall of Fame Foundation’s board of directors and its selection committee. Jones was the quarterback on the football team, played a guard position in basketball, and was first-team All-North Bay League in baseball. He was Napa High’s outstanding athlete, a National Football Foundation Hall of Fame scholar-athlete honoree, and the outstanding student for the 1966-67 school year.

“It will just be great to get out to Napa again,” the 1967 Napa High graduate said. “I’ve still got some old childhood friends. It will be nice to reacquaint with them and see them. I’m very much looking forward to it.”

A combination of athletes, coaches and special category inductees make up the HOF, which spans generations and several decades, dating all the way back to 1912. The purpose of the NHS Athletic HOF Foundation is to honor the school and its athletics department by recognizing the achievements of former athletes, coaches and others who have made significant contributions to the school’s athletic programs.

The Hall of Fame’s selection committee votes on the nominees. A successful nominee needs 75 percent of the total points possible. The Class of 2011 is one of the strongest in recent years.

Jones said he was stunned when he got the news about his election to the Hall of Fame, as it’s been 44 years since he graduated from Napa.

“How would you remember an old guy like me? I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” he said. 

In an e-mail to the Hall of Fame endorsing Jones’ nomination, Bill Buckner, a HOF member and 1968 graduate, wrote: “First and foremost, Dave Jones was what every parent would want in a son. Class guy and an outstanding student. I can’t even think of a single incident where Dave Jones didn’t show total class.”

Buckner played football and baseball with Jones and was one of the primary receivers as an end, twice receiving Coaches All-America honors for the Indians.

“You couldn’t have a better teammate. And he was a great athlete,” said Buckner, who played 22 years in the major leagues, producing a .289 lifetime average that included 498 doubles, 174 home runs and 1,208 runs batted in. “He was the best athlete that I played with in high school.

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“As I look back at my days in high school, Dave Jones was the best athlete at Napa High and the most deserving to be in the Napa High School Hall of Fame. No athlete represented his school better than Dave Jones.”

Jones’ grandparents, Del and Anita Fahrner, raised him at their home on Kilburn Avenue. He was a back-up quarterback to George White as a junior, but did throw a touchdown pass on his very first attempt to Butch Thompson against Vallejo. He was the starting right fielder and batted .420 to earn first-team All-NBL.

He had a very good senior year for Napa. As the starting quarterback, he was NBL honorable mention after leading the league in pass attempts, passing yards and touchdowns. He was Napa’s team MVP in 1966.

Jones was All-NBL honorable mention in basketball. He was selected to two All-Tournament teams during invitationals hosted by Balboa-San Francisco and Sir Francis Drake-San Anselmo.  

In baseball, he was All-NBL first-team after batting .286 in the third spot in the order.

“I can’t tell you how honored I am,” Jones said before flying an A330 airbus to London Heathrow Airport over the weekend. “To be remembered like this, it’s out of the blue. It’s wonderful to think that you can be remembered all these years later. I was just surprised, just to come back and dredge up old guys like me.”

Jones played for Pete Rivers (football), Herb Jotter (basketball) and Dale Fisher (baseball).

“I had the good fortune to play with some really good coaches. I still remember all their names and I can picture them,” said Jones. “There’s still very vivid memories of all of those men, because I just thought they were great guys. They were well prepared. I thought they really had a lot of integrity. I just have nothing but great memories of those guys.”

One of Jones’ favorite coaches was Clint Smith, whom he had at Ridgeview Junior High for both football and baseball. Smith was the baseball coach at Napa High from 1972 to 1985 and coached American Legion teams for seven years.

“I think all the guys that had him as a coach or were just influenced by him at all really have nothing but wonderful things to say about him,” said Jones. “He was just an outstanding man. He really was a great motivator and influence on young men and what he taught young guys was exceptional. I just have a real soft spot for Clint Smith.”

Jones received an appointment out of Napa to the Air Force Academy from Rep. Don Clausen and played baseball for four years there. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation.

“It was physically pretty rigorous, the first year especially. It was academically challenging. I probably wouldn’t have become a pilot if I hadn’t gone there. It set me up in my career. Overall, I enjoyed it. Looking back, it was really a pretty good experience for me.”

Based out of Philadelphia, he flies for US Airways to international destinations exclusively throughout Europe. The airbus A330 that he flies has a crew of three pilots and nine flight attendants. He started his airline career with PSA and has been a captain since 1985. He’s been in the airline industry for 33 years.

Jones and his wife, Sherry, have two sons, Samuel (24) and Cameron (21), and a daughter, Abbie (19).

For more information of the HOF dinner and awards program, e-mail Carol Stein at csstein@pacbell.net or visit the HOF’s website, napahighhof.org

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