Charmin Jones had a serious side as a successful businesswoman. But when a roller rink was rocking with Prince and Michael Jackson, she also made it a point to be there.
Two or three times a week, she’d boogie-oogie-oogie like a dancer on wheels, using the gear that, for generations, serious skaters have favored — Riedell boots with Snyder plates for the undercarriage and urethane wheels by Bones.
On the South Side, she’d glide around the Rink on 87th Street and the Loop on 95th. On the North Side, she used to hit the Rainbo rink on Clark Street. In the suburbs, she favored the Markham and Glenwood roller rinks.
“We used to tear that up,” said Bernadette House, her friend of 30 years and fellow roller-skater. “We called it ‘rolling.’ ”
The South Shore resident died of cancer Aug. 7 at 54.
After studying at Wilberforce University in Ohio, Ms. Jones went into real estate. At her peak, she did $3 million in annual sales, according to her mother, Gloria Williams. In 2007, she founded her own firm, Black Acre Realty.
When Ms. Jones would hear other people bring up their problems, she’d share her own cancer struggle in hopes of inspiring them. She fought breast cancer three times over the last several years of her life and encouraged others to get mammograms and do self-exams.
“Inside the grocery store and a person might complain about something, she would stop and tell them God saved her life,” said Angela Graham, a friend since Charmin Jones attended South Shore High School.
In a video testimonial for the Apostolic Church of God, Ms. Jones described how her faith helped her cope with her cancer diagnosis.
“I went into warrior mode,” she said. “No ‘woe is me.’ . . . I’ve been floating with the Holy Spirit ever since.
“I’m not worried about a thing because God’s got me.”
“She never lost her faith,” her friend Toni Gallatin said. “She never complained.”
Charmin Jones’s family prized education and excellence.
“I always taught them if it’s required for you to type 40 words a minute, why not do 60?” said her mother, a retired teacher and postal worker.
Ms. Jones’ maternal great-grandmother was a behind-the-scenes figure in the civil rights struggle in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1950s, opening her home for meetings and meals so architects of the movement could plot strategy, while her grandmother “worked ironing sheets in the laundry, a penny a shirt,” Gloria Williams said. “She’d have to iron 1,000 shirts to make $10.”
Growing up in South Shore, young Charmin was always active, her mother said: “She was at the beach, at the Y, at the gym.” She did gymnastics through Operation Breadbasket and became a force as a table-tennis player.
Her name led to teasing by some friends, who remembered the old TV commercials featuring the grocer Mr. Whipple and his preoccupation with protecting his store’s cushy Charmin toilet tissue.
At the rink, “We used to call her ‘Please don’t squeeze the Charmin,’ ” said fellow skater Ken Bedford.
“The nickname I gave her is ‘Squeezy,’” said Cheri Mercier, another South Shore High alum.
Her mother said she prayed before bestowing the name.
“The reason I named her that, they were coming out with the little expression, ‘Don’t squeeze the Charmin,'” said Gloria Williams. “I wanted her to be soft enough so she could be touchable. And I wanted her to be strong enough that she could stand on her own two feet and be the African queen she was.”
Ms. Jones trained for half-marathons with her friend Nicole Robinson, who said, in addition to those flat-land races, “We did ‘Hustle Up the Hancock,’ where you run up the stairs.”
Ms. Jones enjoyed steppin’, the supple voices of Phyllis Hyman and Frankie Beverly and the writings of Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks.
She liked to wear the big, long earrings some call door-knockers or chandeliers and had a weakness for Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies. “I used to call her the Cookie Monster,” said Graham.
She is also survived by a sister, Tanya Jones, and a half-sister, Cherri Brown Odom. Services have been held.
“If I called her and asked how she was doing,” Mercier said, the reply would be: “ ‘I’m good, I’m wonderful. God has me.’ She wasn’t afraid to leave. She always knew where she was going.”