Glenn Ash lived his life with faith, and in the end, his family said, that faith allowed him to die last month without fear at 92.
Born into poverty near Green Bay, Wisconsin, in a town so small it eventually disappeared, Ash moved with most of his family to Tenino when he was 14 and spent most of his adult life in the Northwest.
He joined the Army in 1943, and served with the 43rd Division, Combat Engineers, in the Philippines.
On March 6, 1948, in Tacoma, Ash married Mary Anna Posick. The couple were together until her death, 67 years later.
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Ash pioneered “auto row” on Pacific Avenue in 1951 when he bought a 75-year-old house with 200 feet of frontage at 9415 Pacific Ave. for $9,000.
A year later, Ash Motors Inc. built its first office and became something of a local landmark when a Lockheed Ventura bomber was placed on the office roof.
A decade later, with his entire family — which would grow to include four daughters — Ash pursued a lifelong love of horses, founding Ash Arabians. As with his auto dealership, he was successful, purchasing a colt, Aza Destiny, that was twice named to the U.S. National Top Ten.
Aza Destiny helped make Ash Arabians a nationally known breeding farm.
Still, Ash never wavered when asked to name the highlight of his life.
“What he was always proudest of was getting the Billy Graham Crusade to Tacoma,” daughter Linda said. “That was the highlight of his life.”
A proud Baptist, Ash was instrumental in landing the Tacoma Dome, which opened in 1983, to host a weeklong Graham crusade that year in which the evangelist averaged crowds of 30,000 each evening.
“Glenn never talked about himself, but he did much for this community, including being instrumental with the start and the continued success of the Pierce County Prayer Breakfast held the first Friday of May each and every year at the Tacoma Dome,” friend Dean Haner said.
Growing up in poverty had a profound effect on Ash as an adult. Unable to afford to go to college, he was proud that all four of his daughters — Linda, Karen, Susan and Rebecca — went to college.
“Every time one of us graduated or got a degree, there was a big family party with our grandparents, kids, everyone,” Linda said. “Dad loved being with family.”
Another great love that stayed with Ash his entire life was the Green Bay Packers.
“Any time he could go to a game in Lambeau Field, he went, and the cold never bothered him,” Linda said. “He’d take my mom, us kids — once he took all the grandkids with him.
“He had a photo taken with Bart Starr and treasured it.”
Back home, Ash played fastpitch softball for decades, and he sponsored and occasionally managed teams from Ash Motors and Immanuel Baptist Church. Ash’s love of sports included taking care of those coming up behind him.
“He was a regular sponsor of kids sports in the ’50s and ’60s,” Haner said.
His friends and children remember Ash as a good-hearted prankster, a man who always seemed happy to see you and willing to listen.
“Glenn was a good friend, and after he and Mary moved to Arizona in the ’90s, he’d write to me,” Dick Ferguson said. “I’ve probably got 15 letters from him, and he’d write them on a yellow legal pad. All very supportive. Always upbeat.”
Mary Ash needed a drier climate, so the couple moved to Yuma, Tucson and eventually Prescott, Arizona, to be near two of their daughters.
In 2010, Mary’s health began a steady decline.
“My dad really struggled because he knew where she was going and was glad for her, but wanted her with him,” Linda said.
Mary died May 6, and not long after, Ash was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“The doctor told him not to go through all the treatments and surgeries, that they weren’t going to change anything,” Linda said. “The doctor said, ‘Go home and get the party started …’ and that’s how Dad took it.
“He went home and would have the grandchildren or great-grandchildren visit, his daughters. He never once feared death.”
Ash died in Arizona on Sept. 6. A celebration of life will be Saturday at the LeMay Family Collection Foundation at Marymount Event Center, 325 152nd St. E., Spanaway.
He is survived by four daughters, 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.