OBITUARY

Kathy Ashton-Miller

December 23, 1945January 15, 2021
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Kathy Ashton-Miller (née Moe) passed away peacefully at home in Ann Arbor on January 15, 2021 at the age of 75 years following an aggressive brain cancer. Kathy was born to Donald O. and Helen E. Moe of Minot, North Dakota. Her father was a WW2 Army pilot and flying instructor who flew the “hump”, supplying the Chinese resistance from northern India through the Himalayas in good and bad weather. After the war he became a successful Dodge Chrysler Plymouth dealer in Minot. Her mother was a homemaker and skilled cook, assisted with the business, used her beautiful voice in a trio and subscribed to the adage “Live well while you’re living”. Kathy received her K-12 education in the Minot schools and often helped her Dad by greeting customers in his showroom. A highlight was travelling by train all the way to Florida so she could hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak and meet him personally. While in school, Kathy took classical ballet for many years during which she discovered her love of teaching younger students. She took a BA in education, with a minor in French, at Wilson College in PA. While at Wilson, she signed up for Operation Crossroads Africa to spend a summer building a school in Chad, in the French speaking sub-Sahara, using sun-dried mud bricks. In 1967, she was accepted into Teacher Corps and a two year M.Ed. program at the University of Missouri where she became a K-12 teacher and reading specialist. She lived and taught in a poor neighborhood of inner Kansas City. The school had little paper and no pencils for the children so, ever resourceful, Kathy called an executive at the nearby Hallmark Cards headquarters. The next day, a truck backed up to the school with a year’s worth of supplies for every child in every class. Her first teaching job in 1969 was at the E.B. Newton School in Winthrop, MA, just north of the river from Logan Airport in Boston. Her classroom was the entire top floor of the school including a full size theater stage, but the downside was that all conversation had to stop whenever a jet took off, which was often. Her next teaching job was at Angier School in Newton, MA, where Dr. Roland S.Barth, on his way to becoming a national leader in education, had become principal after taking a sabbatical from the Harvard Education School. In 1975, she married James Ashton-Miller, an M.I.T. graduate student from Bristol, England. The wedding was in Minot, North Dakota, after which they left for Oslo, Norway where James obtained a fellowship to study spine biomechanics. To support the family, Kathy took a job teaching at the U.S. Department of Defense Oslo American School in Bekkestua, while James completed his doctoral degree. Kathy bore their first child, Ian, in 1977. In 1980, they moved to Evanston, IL where Kathy bore their second child, Lindsay, and worked as an educational consultant at the Kohl Teaching Center in Winnetka, IL. In 1983, she moved with her family to Ann Arbor when James took a faculty position at the University of Michigan in mechanical engineering. Kathy worked as a Lecturer and University Supervisor for Eastern Michigan University, interspersed by short stints at the University of Michigan, supervising over 1,000 student teachers until she was forced to retire by brain cancer in October 2020. She instilled in them the need to become lifelong learners themselves in order to continually improve their teaching skills. They were expected to recognize the strengths and weaknesses in every child and, irrespective of ethnicity, background or economic status, to foster the skills that each child needed in order to reach their full potential. Kathy drew people in as they were drawn to her. In keeping with the exceptional teacher she was, she listened carefully, engaged fully, and brought out the best attributes of those with whom she interacted. She could recall their family members’ names and interests to the very end. This aptitude was so marked that her neighbors nicknamed her the “Mayor of Iroquois” (Place), the street on which she lived for 37 years, because she was always so well informed and genuinely interested. Recently, when she first came home from the hospital after her biopsy, her car was followed down the street by a gaggle of children exclaiming “Kathy’s back, Kathy’s back” as they crowded around the car to talk to her. She was a devoted wife and mother, and her grandchildren, Aidan and Gemma, were the apples of her eye. Kathy was the consummate hostess not only because of her culinary skills, but because of her care for her guests’ comfort, which she nurtured through her compassion, curiosity, and conversation. She was a quiet social conduit who brightened the lives of so many. One of Kathy’s motivations in life was not only to help children thrive, but also adults: she was most happy when she connected others with resources, opportunities, or each other. Her wonderfully infectious smile and sparkling eyes, a “Know no strangers” mantra, a resourceful nature, and an ability to network led to her improving so many lives. For example, to raise money for the Burns Park Elementary School library, she started the Burns Park Run (now in its 43rd year). She raised money for two new school playgrounds, organizing community volunteers to build them to stretch the money. So that Ann Arbor’s teenagers had a safe place to go after school in order to develop their interests and new skills, she co-founded Ann Arbor’s Neutral Zone (which now happily has its own building). She started the first Seniors All Night Party at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School to provide the graduating students a safe place to celebrate, an idea that spread rapidly. She initiated and fostered the Community Volunteers for many years at the University of Michigan Depression Center in order to raise funds to help children and adolescents with depression, and she chaired and served on several community service and PTO boards. She is survived by her beloved husband of 45 years, James Ashton-Miller, their son Ian Ashton-Miller of Ann Arbor, their daughter Lindsay Van Zandt, husband Mark Van Zandt and their children Aidan (4.5 yrs) and Gemma Van Zandt (2 yrs) of Brooklyn Heights, NY, and Kathy’s sister, Marilyn Fiedler, of Minot, ND. They all miss her terribly. If you’d like, please send a favorite memory of Kathy to kathyashtonmillermemories@gmail.com and we’ll collate them into an album for her grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation in Kathy’s memory to the University of Michigan Depression Center. These gifts will be used to support an endowment fund to be established in Kathy’s name to support the research of an early career faculty member in order to help initiate a paradigm shift in improving the lives of children and adolescents with depression. Gifts can be sent via http://victors.us/kathyashtonmiller or by check made payable to the “University of Michigan” and sent to the Michigan Medicine Office of Development, 1000 Oakbrook Dr., Ste 100, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Please indicate your gift is in memory of Kathy Ashton-Miller. Nancy Davis (nandavis@umich.edu) can answer any questions.

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  • University of Michigan Depression Center Michigan Medicine Office of Development, 1000 Oakbrook Dr. Ste 100, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

Past Services

Friday, January 22, 2021

Visitation

Friday, January 22, 2021

Graveside Service - Invitation Only (Covid restriction). However, we welcome you to attend via Zoom by clicking on "Join Livestream"