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Bone marrow drive held in memory of journalist

At Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Dorchester, Harold Sealls of Roxbury registered as a bone marrow donor in a drive named after Arthur Jones, whose widow, Karen, sat nearby. At Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Dorchester, Harold Sealls of Roxbury registered as a bone marrow donor in a drive named after Arthur Jones, whose widow, Karen, sat nearby. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Michael Naughton
Globe Correspondent / March 16, 2008

As Arthur Jones lay in his bed at Brigham and Women's Hospital waiting for a possible life-saving bone marrow transplant, he asked his longtime friend for help.

"He wanted me to help him get more African-Americans involved because it was very difficult for him to find a match," said T. Brooks Shepard, Jones's friend and former colleague.

Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who worked for various local media, including The Boston Globe, and later served as a spokesman for former governor Michael S. Dukakis, former mayor Raymond L. Flynn and former president Bill Clinton, had chronic lymphocytic leukemia and died in October 2006, just months after he and Shepard had that conversation.

Shepard recalled that visit with Jones, whose last job was as director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's news office, yesterday at Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Dorchester, where some of Jones's friends and family gathered for a bone marrow registration drive in his memory. Organizers of the drive, put on by members of the Prince Hall lodge with the assistance of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Jones's family, said it was meant in part to bring awareness to members of minority communities.

"Doing drives in organizations like this is essential," said Wanda McClain, executive director of the Center for Community Health and Health Equity at Brigham and Women's.

After Jones was diagnosed with the disease in 1997, his doctors were unable to find a compatible donor.

Because a person's most likely match is someone of the same ethnic or racial heritage, minority patients have less of a chance of finding a match because minority groups make up only about a quarter of those who have registered as marrow donors, according to the National Marrow Donor Program.

Of the 3,200 successful matches made by the National Marrow Donor Program in 2006, fewer than 200 were minorities.

During yesterday's drive, members of the lodge and Jones's friends filled out donor forms and used cotton swabs to collect cell samples from inside their mouths, which will be used to determine whether they are a match.

"This is simple. It's accurate," said Dr. Selwyn Rogers, a trauma physician at Brigham and Women's who volunteered at yesterday's drive. "It opens up whole new possibilities of life. It's ultimately a good Samaritan way of helping someone."

The turnout at yesterday's drive was low because of the morning snowfall and the age restrictions for potential donors, but organizers said they were looking forward to holding more drives this year.

Jones's wife, Karen Anderson Jones, said she plans on holding a large fund-raiser in October to help benefit the Arthur Jones Bone Marrow Donor Initiative, the organization she created.

"These kinds of events can educate and inform the public," she said. "It's what his legacy should be about."

Jones's wife said she hopes the events will help persuade more minorities to apply to become donors so other patients will have a better chance at finding a match.

People interested in becoming a donor can call Dana-Farber at 866-875-3324.

"Hopefully others will survive because of his passing," she said. "If we save one person, it will be worth the effort."

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