Grace Jones Ragland, 58, of Huntsville, Alabama, passed away on January 24, 2020.
Grace was born and raised in Chattanooga and was a 1979 graduate of Red Bank High. She is the daughter of Barry and Rosemary Jones. Grace’s DNA was written with one overriding mandate—to be outside. Her childhood was soaked in dew and creek water. She adored her parents’ hand-built cabin on the banks of the Hiwassee where she collected bugs, rocks and skinned knees. The woods around the cabin whispered destiny to her and lay the foundation for the great adventure she would complete just before the end of her days.
Grace lost her way in college as she was confronted with the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 18. She was determined to live life to the fullest in spite of this and to never ever fall victim to a woe is me attitude. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in home economics. She got married, settled down and had a child, Wills, whom she loved with all her heart.
Grace was made of different stuff. Her blood ran with the urgency of a wilderness stream, frothing with energy and desire to see what beauty lie just around the next bend. After her divorce, with MS increasingly attacking her body, Grace discovered mountain biking. It became her sword and shield helping her stave off the ravages of MS and give her life direction and purpose. She found that purpose as a racer and instructor. She worked as a spokesperson for a drug company and as a passionate, revered national advocate in the fight against MS. Grace’s message of tenacity and action has touched thousands of MS sufferers, and her example of unfailing courage has reached beyond the MS community to inspire all who have heard her story.
In the summer of 2018 at the age of 57, Grace embarked on her defining adventure, the 2750 mile Tour Divide bike race which stretched from Canada to Mexico along the Continental Divide. Grace battled the elements; rain, snow, cold, heat, and altitude, as well as the inner turmoil of MS, infection, isolation, and exhaustion. With her two mottos, “I can, I will, I am,” and “Keep your eye on the prize” she persisted.
After 41 grueling days, Grace reached the Mexican border and the end of the race. Shortly after returning home, she was diagnosed with Stage Four Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. With characteristic toughness, she blasted through chemo and achieved remission. She returned to the Rockies and spent one last glorious summer riding her bike among the wildflowers, drinking in wondrous, brief life.
Her story has been chronicled in the acclaimed book, Divide By One, which witnesses a spirit that is tested, yet comes shining through in the end. Hers is the story of each of us, a story of affliction and redemption that is recognizable and available to all. In name and in deed, she was Grace.
Grace was preceded in death by her parents, Barry and Rosemary Jones.
She is survived by her son, Wills Ragland and brother, Andy Barry Jones.
A celebration of life gathering will be held on her birthday, March 7th in Huntsville.