HUDSON — A tight-knit group of friends who grew up together in Columbia County are reuniting since living separate lives to remember two friends they lost, one of whom was killed in the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988.
Christopher Jones, of Claverack, was killed Dec. 21, 1988, when a bomb destroyed the plane, killing all the passengers and crew members aboard. Jones’ sister, Jennifer, died in Ecuador earlier the same year of complications from diabetes. Both were studying abroad.
To mark the 30th anniversary of their loss, a group of their high school friends are banding together to help brighten the holidays for children in need, while catching up after a long time apart.
Nate Winch was a close friend of Chris, sharing similar interests such as basketball and being part of a youth group in Claverack, and they were in the same grade at Hudson High School. Winch fondly remembers Chris, whose nickname was Jonesy.
“Jonesy and his sister Jennifer moved to the area early in high school,” Winch recalled. “They were from the greater Boston area and so obviously he was a big Celtics fan. I was a [Los Angeles] Lakers fan. So we used to ride and goad each other like friends do.”
Winch and Chris had what Winch called a “rat pack,” of five guys who were good friends, but remembers the families of a bunch of kids who went to school together would hang out at each other’s houses — a tight-knit group of friends.
“We would have good, clean fun,” Winch said. “We would prank each other, play touch football, do youth group together. We were a close group involved in a lot of different activities.”
The last time Winch saw Chris, he was dropping him off at Syracuse University, where Chris was starting his third year of college. Winch’s family offered him a ride because they were headed in that direction to visit family.
“That was around Labor Day 1988, because we were going to the State Fair,” Winch said. “We dropped him off at school and that was the last time I saw him. I don’t recall if we spoke. You know when you are that age you just think you will see that person again.”
Being a Boston man, Chris was a New England Patriots fan, Winch said.
“He didn’t get to see the Patriots’ glory years,” Winch said. “I became a Patriots fan later in life. It makes me think of him and that is a good thing. I remember the good things.”
Winch still lives in his hometown of Claverack and has two grown children and a career in banking, and since the tragedies that snatched his friends away, the group has grown apart.
“We are very busy in our day-to-day,” Winch said. “I guess for me, time is the enemy. But setting time to remember something like this is important. I was pleasantly surprised to hear about this event and had to listen to the message twice.”
Hudson High School friends of Jennifer and Chris are invited to attend “A Tribute to Jennifer and Christopher Jones,” at American Glory, 342 Warren St., on Nov. 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The event, which was organized by several friends, including Chris (Kovalich) Eidem, Karen (Kovalich) Flick, and Jennifer Kovalich-Brophy, will also be a benefit for Globe Santa, a charity of The Boston Globe that assists families and children in need during the holiday season.
“Thirty years since we lost Jennifer and Chris have seemingly passed in a flash, yet their family and friends have carried a deep sorrow and their memories in our hearts every day,” Kovalich-Brophy said. “We have all been so fortunate to have the chance to live our lives. It’s an honor to give something back in their names, knowing it will help others.”
Cash and check donations will be accepted at the fundraiser. Checks may be made out to “Globe Santa.” Online donations may be made at: https://globesanta.org/secure/Donate.aspx.
“I remember Chris saying after his sister died to throw a party after he died,” Eidem said. “When he died, we all went our separate ways. I think it was because it was too hard. But Chris and Jen live on as an example of good friends. We always remember them.”
For more information on the event or to RSVP to attend, contact Kovalich-Brophy at firstname.lastname@example.org.