n 1958, Darrell Jones — an 18-year-old high school graduate fresh off the farm and recently married — took a job at a small, relatively new company called Modern Exterminating, in Jacksonville, N.C.
Today, 57 years later, at age 75, Jones is still going strong as a general pest control technician.
“He’s tried to retire twice, but we always convince him to come back,” says Charles Efird, owner, Modern Exterminating. Charles’ father, J.W. Efird, started Modern in 1952, and Jones was one of his first three employees.
“I still have some of the same families as customers that I had when I started — their kids and their grandkids, right on down the line,” Jones says. “I have some customers where I have the keys to their houses and I just come and go, do what needs to be done and leave a receipt.”
When he last tried to “retire” about 10 years ago, Jones served 400 accounts. Some of those accounts were divided amongst other Modern technicians, but Jones kept enough accounts to work about three days a week. He kept some of his older, most long-standing customers and, true to his strong work ethic, Jones kept some of the most difficult accounts. “I kept the early morning jobs that need to be done around 6 a.m., because that’s what I like to do: come in early and get things done,” Jones said.
“He has a lot of energy, and he’s always had a lot of energy,” Efird says. “Darrell’s customers love him and he has very high quality standards. He’s so detailed and he has been a huge mentor to all of our technicians. He just brings a very deep perspective to solving problems.”
Jones readily shares his nearly six decades of know-how with the other 35 employees at Modern. “It’s nice to be able to share some of my experience because there’s a lot to know in this business,” Jones says.
“Back in the old days you could use just about anything you wanted because there were hardly any regulations. When I started we mixed our own mice poison with cornmeal and warfarin and we made our own roach powder with sodium chloride,” Jones says. “Over the generations people have changed and the regulations have changed and you just adapt to it. The products are better and safer now, and a lot of pest management is about how and where you use a product.”
At Modern, business is truly a family endeavor. Jones’ wife of 55 years, Billie Jean, worked part-time for Modern as a secretary in the 1960s. His two brothers, Marion and Bernice, both worked at Modern Exterminating for 40-plus years until they passed away several years ago. Jones’ nephew, Buddy, still works at Modern and is approaching his fourth decade at the company. Buddy’s son, Jason, started working at Modern when he was 18. Unfortunately, Jason’s career as a technician was cut short due to a softball accident that left him paralyzed. True to Modern’s family nature, the company arranged fundraising events that have helped the Jones’ family with some of Jason’s expenses, including a specially outfitted truck.
“We really are a family; our whole company feels like a family,” Charles Efird says. No one knows that better than Darrell Jones, who has seen three generations of Joneses work for three generations of Efirds. “Charles’ father was real good to work for, and Charles is real good to work for and now his daughter is working with him and that’s been good too,” Jones says.
So what’s Darrell Jones’ secret to a long life, good health and a fruitful career? Love what you do and keep moving. “I love the outdoors and I love getting out and meeting everybody,” Jones says. “I know a lot of people who when they retire, they sit down and a year later they are dead. I don’t want to be that way. I wake in the morning and come on to work and work right on up until I want to go home. I don’t have plans to change that anytime soon. When you say I’ve been working as a technician for 57 years it sounds like a long time, but it doesn’t seem that long. It’s gone fast and the older I get the faster it goes.” — Steve Smith