When Clarence Jones, a Harrison County farmer, goes to Hardee's to enjoy his morning coffee, one name is mentioned nearly every time: Austin Jones.
"He's an inspiration to the community," Clarence says. Austin is his grandson.
Austin, 30, has been an integral part of Cynthiana since he was born. His parents, Greg and Laura Jones, weren't aware of Austin's Down syndrome until the nurse brought the news at the hospital. Greg says it overwhelmed him.
But Austin's parents were determined that he'd have a fulfilling life. As Austin grew up and started going to school, he began to attend classes with the Functional Mental Disabilities (FMD) program. When he graduated from middle school, he was supposed to continue taking FMD classes there until he would graduate from high school, meaning he would be surrounded by eighth graders well into his late teens. But Laura wouldn't let that fly.
“I said when he was a freshman he needed to go to high school, not stay in the past,” Laura says.
By his sophomore year, he was at high school full-time till he graduated in 2008 at age 19. He's worked at McDonalds for the past 10 years. He plays in a regular bowling league. He stays up late playing video games and loves to watch WWE wrestling.
Everyone from around town – the schools, businesses, restaurants – has kept an eye on Austin all his life.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and it really did with Austin,” his mom says.
But today the community is no longer just looking after him. They've become his friends.
Sissy Hyatt was in charge of the daycare Austin attended and an aid in his elementary school. Now, as Sissy faces the first stages of Alzheimer's, she and Austin share laughs while remembering trips to the zoo to see the monkeys. Chris Reffett, who took care of Austin in an after-school program, has named his son after his buddy. Anywhere he goes, Austin always has a friend.
“He always tells the truth,” says Carl Wayne Hitch, a bowling teammate and longtime friend of Austin, "he could never tell a lie."