It was 1974 when 6-year-old Damon Jones received a small toy airplane as a gift.
The plastic airplane was attached to a wire that led to a controller. It would fly in circles along the radius of that wire while the user held the controller. The single AA battery in the controller powered the toy, allowing it to fly. Young Damon could not figure out how this small battery made the airplane at the end of the wire fly. This was the first of many toys that would be taken apart in sacrifice for discovering how they worked.
When asked if he was able to put the airplane back together, Damon laughed.
"Oh God no," he said.
Born in Wyoming, but moving at a very young age, Damon has lived in Oregon for most of his 52 years. He has a wife and three children, living a modest life, filled with family activities on the weekends. His current hobby is flying; after receiving his pilot's license earlier this year, he spends hours not just flying but reconstructing his very own private aircraft.
The piloting endeavor began over a decade ago, but after getting married and having children, he never finished the schooling to get his license. He recently set off to finish what he started and is now proudly a private aircraft pilot.
Outside of the joy of flying, being able to build parts and completely redesign his plane has been an outlet for his incredible talent as an engineer. After his humble beginnings as a child and teenager, rebuilding whatever he could get his hands on — endeavors such as his toy airplane turned into more advanced projects like car motors — he decided to make a career out of these interests.
His senior year of high school, knowing he wouldn't be able to afford schooling any other way, he entered a state competition through the club Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA). His talents shined through, as his project stood out in the crowd of hundreds, winning him a full-ride scholarship to ITT Tech. There he received his associate's degree, making his resume all the more appealing to employers.
He bought farmland out in rural Oregon, which eventually housed his family. For many years, he traveled many places, from Japan to Alaska to Bend and Seattle, fixing computers and medical systems at hospitals as a self-employed IT guy.
In the market crash of 2008, he, like many others, found himself out of a job. After relocating to Tualatin, he landed a job at Treske Precision Machinery. The large business hides in industrial Sherwood, little known to most local citizens. Damon will excitedly explain the inner workings of the large shop to anyone who asks.
Although a quiet and sheltered man, the right question about something of interest to him will get him talking for hours.
Treske is a machinery-based shop that makes important parts for all sorts of companies and projects. As the head programmer, Damon is the man behind the operations, making the codes that allow these machines to take on these amazing feats.
"Parts for over 60 satellites for SpaceX was a cool one," he said nonchalantly in response to his favorite projects he's been a part of.
Along with his parts orbiting our planet, he also has crucial parts of national defense systems as well as on every single naval ship the U.S. has in use.
His quiet nature renders him an unassuming brilliant mind, capable of seeing the world in a different lens as your everyday person. All things technology, circuits, computers and now aviation, he has stored away in his brain. While it may take initiation, if you get him talking, you will quickly be introduced to his vast knowledge and unique way of thinking.
Brooke Jones is a student at George Fox University in Newberg. The subject of this column, Damon Jones, is her father.
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