James Hubert “Jim” Ashton, 95, of Peoria, passed away Thursday,
Dec. 31, 2020, at Lutheran Hillside Village in Peoria, Ill., following a short final illness.
Jim was born on April 12, 1925, in Whiting, Iowa, the son of William P. Ashton and Martha (Barry) Ashton. He married Virginia Fountain on May 28,1950, in her hometown of Missouri Valley, Iowa. She preceded him in death on April 17, 2010. He was also preceded in death by his parents; his sister: Lavon McCullough; an infant daughter: Jennifer Ashton; and an infant great-grandson: Isaac Gottlieb.
He is survived by one son: Jim (Jean) Ashton of Peoria; two daughters: Peggy (Tim) Buck of Champaign and Beth (Michael) Vrba of Portland, Maine; ten grandchildren: Chris Ashton and Tim Ashton, both of St. Paul, Minn., Stephanie Ashton of Peoria, Amanda (Derek) Gottlieb of Madison, Ala., Rachel (Alex) Bakunas of Oak Park, Katie (Chris) Pelz of Fisher, Sarah (Juan) Perez of Joliet, James Buck of Champaign, and Jackie Vrba and Ross Vrba, both of Portland, Maine; six great-grandchildren: Addy and Nora Gottlieb, and Eli, Theo, Zach and Evie Pelz; and several nieces and nephews.
Before he started school, Jim’s family relocated to Lone Tree, Iowa, where he spent his youth. Following high school, Jim enrolled at the University of Iowa. After his freshman year, he served in the U.S. Army Air Force, spending time toward the end of World War II on Morotai Island in the Pacific Theater. Following his military service, Jim returned to the University of Iowa, where he met the love of his life, Virginia, a nursing student, on a blind date arranged by one of his roommates. Jim later claimed that, following that first date, his schoolwork suffered, but his personal life improved immensely. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering.
Jim entered the College Graduate Training Program at Caterpillar in 1949. He spent his entire working career at Caterpillar, where he had several interesting assignments and made many life-long friends. Most of his career at Caterpillar was spent working in the Peoria area, but he had two assignments away from Peoria. He and his family lived three years each in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Toronto, Ontario, before returning to Peoria in 1965. Later, his work provided Jim several opportunities for international travel.
After retirement, Jim and Virginia traveled extensively throughout the United States, including a trip to Hawaii and a motorhome trip with friends to Alaska, where they experienced the extended daylight of the Summer Solstice. They also had trips to Europe and the British Isles. While they were still able to travel, Jim and Virginia were “snow birds” and spent the colder months in Green Valley, Ariz.
Jim had wide-ranging interests. He and Virginia were members of several bridge groups. He had a good sense of humor and loved a good prank. Jim and Virginia enjoyed antiques. He enjoyed playing golf. Jim loved children and felt a responsibility to look after those in need.
Jim had a life-long love of music, especially jazz. While a student at the University of Iowa, he and his roommate developed a radio station that operated out of their dormitory room and broadcast through the building’s electrical system. He enjoyed live music; he also enjoyed listening to his collection of recorded music.
Jim enjoyed writing and, especially after Virginia passed away, he spent much of his time composing short stories. Most often his stories examined personal relationships and the importance of marriage, and no matter what happened to his characters as a story developed, since Jim controlled how the story ended, there invariably was a happy ending.
His faith was an important part of Jim’s life. Since moving back to Peoria, he has been a member of First Baptist Church in Peoria. He studied the Bible, and, prior to his passing, was attempting to understand the Book of Revelation. There were several instances over the course of his life when Jim believed a guardian angel was watching over and protecting him and his family. He believed his greatest achievement was his marriage and family, and he hoped that he had achieved God’s plan for his life.
In 2006, Jim and Virginia moved to Lutheran Hillside Village retirement community in Peoria. Their family would like to thank the many staff and caregivers at Lutheran Hillside Village who assisted and cared for Jim and Virginia over the years. Your kindness was greatly appreciated.
Jim was a man of intelligence, humor, honor, stamina, and courage. He was a friend to many. He cherished his family and will be sorely missed by all who knew him. The world is a better place for his having been in it.
Private family services will be held. Dr. Rob Collins will officiate. To attend via livestream, please visit https://m.facebook.com/WoolseyWilton/.
Entombment will be in the Chapel of Peace in Parkview Cemetery in Peoria. Davison-Fulton Woolsey-Wilton Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
The family plans to have a celebration of Jim’s life at a later date. Memorials may be made to his church, to Lutheran Hillside Village, to The Children’s Home Association of Illinois, to the Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service, or to the charity of your choice.
Online condolences may be made at www.woolsey-wilton.com.