Dennis Jones, 40, was the kind of father who built a Bat Cave fort with pillows and blankets so he and his son, Wyatt, 7, could spend hours pretending to be Batman and Robin. A construction worker, he often helped friends with odd home projects.
He took walks through the village, always returning home afterward. So when he didn’t, on Dec. 21, his mother, Nancy Jones, grew worried, she said.
Jones’s body was recovered from Milburn Pond, on the Baldwin-Freeport border, on Dec. 28, after a weeklong search conducted by the Freeport police and fire departments, Nassau County police and community volunteers. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police have not released further details on Jones’s disappearance or the cause of death. However, according to his younger sister, Alyson Jones, her family was informed by authorities that Dennis died of hypothermic drowning. It is unknown if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of his death.
Jones was reported missing by his family on Dec. 22. According to Alyson, his disappearance was highly unusual. “It wasn’t like my brother to just go missing like that,” she said.
Alyson said her brother, who never married, was a recovering drug addict. “He was on a path to recovery,” she said. “We don’t know if he lapsed before his death, but he was working on it.”
Despite his struggles, Nancy Jones said her son was a good man. “He is going to be sorely missed,” she said, describing her son as selfless.
“My brother was always trying to help someone,” Alyson said. “He wasn’t perfect, but he was always doing what he could to make other people’s lives easier.”
According to Alyson, Dennis had the brightest smile she had ever seen and was full of love for anyone he met. A few years ago, she said, she and Dennis attended a country music concert in Manhattan. The night was brisk, she said, and as they walked toward the Long Island Rail Road to return to Freeport, her brother took off his jacket to give to a homeless man.
“He literally has taken has taken his shirt off to help someone else,” she said, holding back tears. “He even made sure the man had something to eat before we left.”
He often lent a helping hand to help fix friends’ homes. Childhood friend Christian Encarnacion, 46, said Jones spent hours helping him with various projects. When he wasn’t working, he was playing Xbox with Encarnacion’s son.
“I’m devastated by all of this,” Encarnacion said. “He was my little brother. He was a loyal guy. He always went the extra mile.”
Jones didn’t drive, but instead walked almost everywhere he went, whether it was the Nautical Mile, the LIRR station or even the Long Island Sound, his sister said.
“It was just his thing . . .,” Alyson said.
On the day Jones went missing, his sister said, their mother thought he was on another walk, or perhaps he had gone Christmas shopping for Wyatt. When he had not returned by Dec. 22, Nancy called Alyson, whose heart sank, she said. Alyson immediately left upstate Esopus, where she lives, and made the two-hour drive to Freeport.
“I always knew how to find my brother,” she explained. “I had to come home to find him.”
On Dec. 23, Alyson was searching with family and friends around Milburn Pond. She said she was frantic, desperate to find her brother. After hours of looking, the group found a pair of tan Timberland boots in the murky water. She knew they belonged to her brother, she said. By then, the police and fire departments, the Missing Persons Bureau, the Marine Bureau, the Dive Team, the Aviation Unit and the Emergency Service Unit were looking for her brother.
But nobody could find him. Frustrated, on Dec. 27, Alyson threw on a pair of waders and jumped into Milburn Pond to find him.
“I was frustrated,” she said. “I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the police and fire departments’ efforts to help find my brother, but I couldn’t just wait around. I had to do something. We didn’t have a lot of information. I was panicking.”
He was later found in the pond.
Dennis’s cousin Sean Fashbach, 46, of Freeport, described him as a happy man who never missed a beat. “He was fun-loving,” Fashbach said. “He lived his life to the fullest.”
Jones loved playing chess, reading and watching his favorite sports teams — the Yankees, Jets and Knicks. He liked to volunteer with his son’s Little League baseball team, and spent hours playing with him too.
In addition to his mother, sister and son, he is survived by his father, Gary Jones. A wake was scheduled for the Hungerford and Clark Funeral Home, at 110 Pine St. in Freeport, on Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., with a prayer service at 3 p.m. Jones’s funeral was scheduled for the following day, at Greenfield Cemetery, at 650 Nassau Road in Uniondale, at 10 a.m.