Remembering the Life of Tom Ashby

Kathleen, Tom’s wife of 51 years, talks how the couple met, and a little bit about what some may not know about the man who was beloved in the South Pasadena community.

In a rare instance since the loss of her devoted husband last month, Kathleen Ashby found herself laughing, saying it felt good as she thought back on her 51-year marriage to a man who meant so much to so many in South Pasadena.

His impact will never be lost on Kathleen, who remembers her husband Tom, who passed away September 17, for more than what the public saw, which was a standout high school and youth soccer coach, a AYSO Region 214 Commissioner, South Pasadena High Booster Club president and member of the SPHS Athletic Hall of Fame – just a small fraction of his long list of accomplishments.

He was all that and more in her eyes – a man of high integrity, kind-heartedness, someone who cared, seemingly always greeting others with a warm, genuine smile.

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Thinking back on how she first got to know Tom led to the laughter, Kathleen reciting the story about how the couple initially met.

They were both 1965 graduates of South Pasadena High but never met on campus, leaving that day for later after graduation living next door to each other in an apartment building in town.

“It didn’t take me long to go over and borrow sugar and show passive aggressive ways of saying ‘I live next door!’” she said, before the giggles began. “We didn’t date very long before we knew this was the one.”

Kathleen borrowed plenty of sugar, maybe some milk and butter too, in those days “so I could see him,” she recalled, enjoying a humorous moment.

Surrounded by family, Kathleen was touched when a brief ceremony was held prior to kickoff of last week’s South Pasadena High home football game against visiting Temple City as Tom and some his achievements were recognized.

“It was really, really nice how they honored him,” said Kathleen, who was presented a bouquet of flowers by the school’s athletic director, Anthony Chan down on the field.

Over the loud speaker, public address announcer Garrett Shorr praised the work, contributions and efforts made by Tom Ashby over the years in a town that was second to none to him.

In 2003, as head girls’ soccer coach he led the Tigers to a CIF championship. Before coaching, he watched his daughter, Allison, win a CIF soccer title for SPHS in 1990 and never missed seeing his son, Kevin, play a football game in a Tiger uniform.

Ashby entered the school’s Hall of Fame for building a solid girls’ soccer program and watched as many of his players took their talents onto the collegiate level. In his latter years, Ashby spent much of his days around his grandchildren and, of course, South Pasadena High athletics, seldom missing a football game or girls’ soccer match.

“He served selflessly and made it a practice to contribute through volunteerism for SPHS,” Shorr told the large crowd during the pregame ceremony in advance of Tigers winning big, recording a 56-0 lopsided win over the Rams on homecoming night.

Following the message, he asked those in the stands to remember Ashby with a moment of silence. On the field joining a teary-eyed Kathleen was her sister, Ellen, her daughter, Allison, her son-in-law Kevin, and Kevin’s young son, Collin.

Outside his success around South Pasadena High athletics and loyalty to the school, Kathleen shared another one of her husband’s deep affections.

“He loved the Rolling Stones,” she said, followed by another laugh. “We went to a lot of their concerts.”

Tom, born in Oregon, was also a big fan of the state. He moved to South Pasadena when he was in elementary school, attended the middle school – a junior high in those days – before the local high school, where he participated in track.

One other quality about the man shared by Kathleen was his ability to take on a task immediately, like getting something done right now.

“I’d tell him to do this or that, pick up something at the store and he’d do it right away,” she said, explaining that her husband had OCD – obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“He got things done before they needed to be done,” she continued. “People with OCD get things done right away. It’s a good thing. He wouldn’t put things off that he could do right now. You take care of business right now.”

It’s those kind of memories Kathleen will hold on to as she continues to reminiscence about her long life with someone who helped and inspired many along the way over his 75 years of life.

“It made me cry,” Kathleen said, thinking about the tribute made to her husband prior to kickoff last week. “He did so much for our family, soccer players, our city and the schools.”

In her next breath, she added what thousands already know about the good-natured individual, adding softly: “He was a good guy.”

Kathleen would like her husband to be remembered as “a positive, wonderful, compassionate man,” she said, noting quickly, “and a wonderful husband for a lot of years.”

A memorial service for Tom Ashby will be held at Calvary Presbyterian Church, 1050 Fremont Avenue, in South Pasadena, November 5, at 1 p.m.