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Date of Passing: Mar 02, 2009

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JAMES HARRY ASHDOWN With grace and dignity in his 87th year, James Ashdown died, surrounded by family, at the Deer Lodge Centre on Monday, March 2nd, 2009. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Ruby, his sons James, (Connie) and William, (Heather) and his daughter Mary Grace Ashdown-Durst, (Bryan), his seven grandchildren; Larissa, Jennifer, Tricia, Nicholas, James, Kendall and Tyler, and one great-grandchild, Avery, as well as his brother, Judge Philip L. Ashdown. He was predeceased by his father, Harry Crowson Ashdown and his mother, Grace Langlois Ashdown. James Ashdown was born in 1922. After receiving his education in Winnipeg, he went to sea at an early age, taking a summer job crewing on an elderly island freighter servicing ports up and down the BC coast. Despite conditions that could be charitably termed appalling , he developed a lifelong love of ships and the sea. He enlisted in the Canadian Navy, leaving aside University life for a wartime career as an able seaman. He crewed aboard several ships, chiefly HMCS Skeena, and survived many Atlantic runs on convoy duty, as well as action off the French coast during and after D-Day. In October, 1944, during an early winter gale, Skeena was driven ashore on the rocks of Reykavik Harbour, Iceland, and shipwrecked with the loss of 15 men. Of his mess, he was the sole survivor. His business career was primarily with the family firm, the J.H.Ashdown Hardware Company, one of the pioneer businesses of early Winnipeg. Starting in the Lethbridge branch, quite literally in the basement, as a stockboy, he progressed through almost every part of the company, finishing as Executive Vice-President in 1968, when the company was sold. Following this, he had a number of business interests, particularly Bluewater Industries, manufacturing fine fiberglass boats. Additionally, he served on a number of corporate boards. Following family tradition, he devoted a great deal of time to community and charitable activities. Among these were terms on the boards of United College, the Winnipeg General Hospital, the Manitoba Museum, the Manitoba Theatre Centre, and the Manitoba Forestry Association, which he chaired for many years. He had many interests. Through the business, he acquired a unique collection of antique hardware and tools. He pursued model railroading. But it was as a ship modeller, that his real love emerged, creating hundreds of models of all sizes. Many of his best pieces, together with his book collection, have been gifted to the Naval Museum of Manitoba. In addition, he created thousands of children's toys, that were donated to several charities to aid in fundraising. He was a member of the Manitoba Club and the Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club. He was also a dedicated duck hunter, and enjoyed a long association with the Country Gun Club and the Passawa Shooters Society. All of his life he loved the Lake of the Woods and the family camp, where he had spent so many years. As a family, our fondest members are of Dad and his beloved Athendune cruising the Lake, usually with a load of grandchildren. Dad was a thoroughly decent, kind and loving man, devoted to his wife and family. He taught us well, and filled our lives with fun and joy. We will miss him enormously. A memorial service will be held at St. Andrew's River Heights United Church, at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, March 27, 2009. The family wishes to express their thanks and appreciation for the efforts of Kathy, and the staff of the Deer Lodge Centre for making his last days comfortable and enjoyable.

As published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Mar 21, 2009

Condolences & Memories (1 entries)

  • My uncle, Tom Shea, now deceased was on the Skeena the night it went aground. - Posted by: Mary Shea () on: Aug 21, 2012

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