Al Ashworth: An Original, Not a Copy
Al Ashworth was a leader in the Lebanon community, an author, an entrepreneur, and a mentor to others. “He was a giver; and he had the biggest heart,” his wife Claudine explained. Al loved to teach and pass down his knowledge about photography to others. For years, he had a classroom in the back of Custom Color Photo, his photo processing business/studio on West Main Street. One of his joys was watching his photography students get excited about learning new techniques. He challenged them to find unusual angles and fresh ideas for their projects. He often told them, “You were born an original; don’t die a copy.” Over the years, he taught students from ages 12-94. “That 94-year-old just had a point and shoot camera,” Claudine remembered, “but he gave her the same attention he would’ve given to someone who had expensive equipment. He just wanted to share his knowledge with others.”
Al was diagnosed with leukemia in 2016, but he never missed a full day of work because of his diagnosis. He was optimistic about life, loved his clients, and gave his best on every job he tackled. Claudine was proud of his work ethic: “After shooting an event, he wouldn’t sleep until the pictures were processed, loaded onto the computer, and ready to be viewed first thing the next morning…He didn’t have children, so his work was his baby. He nurtured it and loved it!” Even while he fought cancer, he never procrastinated or took shortcuts. Before he passed away from Covid in January, he moved a bed in the back of the store where he could lie down, work a while, and rest again. During the last couple of months of his life, he often spent the night in the store because he was too worn out to go home.
“He was such a cheerleader for other cancer patients,” Claudine smiled. “He got his chemo locally, and he would talk to the other people there and give them hope. He wanted everyone to reach for the stars.” Al encouraged some of those people to contact Sherry’s Hope about getting assistance. “He had done a lot of volunteer photography for them during the races and other events back when he was healthy,” Claudine explained. In 2017, “Sherry’s Hope sponsored a Christmas event where the kids of cancer patients had breakfast with Santa Claus and Al loved being the photographer for that.” Al constantly looked for opportunities where he could give back to the community and Sherry’s Hope was an organization that was dear to his heart. He never dreamed back then that he would one day be diagnosed with cancer and become a beneficiary of Sherry’s Hope like so many others who struggle with the overwhelming effects of this disease. Claudine sang the praises of Sherry’s Hope because they encouraged and supported the Ashworths during the toughest of times: “They helped us with some of the doctor and hospital bills for over a year. I don’t know how we could have made it without their help.” The people at Sherry’s Hope also called frequently to check on Al’s progress and lift him up in prayer. To show his gratitude, Al donated a large portion of the proceeds of his last book, No Snow Days, to the organization. Claudine bowed her head and said with assurance, “We truly believe in what they do in this community.”
Sherry’s Hope Executive Board Member Kevin Bass had fond memories of his associations with Al: “He walked to the beat of a different drummer than most people, but the beat he walked to was beautiful. Al would have done anything for anybody.” Al was a constant figure at the starting line for the Sherry’s Run 5K event making sure he or one of his students got the perfect picture. This year the Sherry’s Run 5K Run/Walk will be held in Al’s memory.
Al was multi-talented: “The word is SKILLED,” Claudine laughed. “He was skilled at everything his hands touched. I used to call him the Golden Child because he could do so many things well.” Al had three computer degrees and he could build, repair, and program any computer. He was an accomplished bass player from his youth. “He played bass at his church,” Claudine said with a twinkle in her eye. “His grandmother, Nellie Ashworth, couldn’t read or write, but she instilled the love of Jesus in him at an early age.” She made sure he was at church each week and he became an active participant in the worship there. Al also played piano, blogged, and became an on-air and media personality who had friends all across the country. He was passionate about politics and always enjoyed a good debate. In high school, he was a star basketball player. Claudine stressed over and over how intelligent he was, “and the wide variety of his knowledge was amazing!” His friend Rocky Gann agreed: “Al had a lethal combination of knowledge and work ethic…And I think that was his key to success.”
Because of their faith in God, neither Al nor Claudine feared death. “We’re both strong believers in the sovereignty of God,” Claudine explained. “Al used to always say, ‘But GOD--’ like this or that could happen, but GOD could turn it around.” She and Al met when they both worked at UMC years ago. “We were together forty years,” she smiled. “We can’t complain. God is sovereign and He doesn’t make mistakes.” She understands that life is a gift and you take what you’re handed, do the best you can with it, and show appreciation even in the hardest moments.
Today, you can still find Claudine working daily at Custom Color Photo, a job where she and Al worked side by side during most of their years together. She also volunteers at her church ministering to former addicts and affirming their worth by teaching them about God’s unconditional love. “Your life is sometimes different than you thought it was going to be. But GOD---He’s going to get me through this!”
The 18th annual Sherry’s Run 5K Run/Walk to benefit Sherry’s Hope is Saturday, September 11, 2021 at 8 am. Click here to register online or join a team and make a difference in the lives of those in our community affected by cancer.
Sherry’s Hope is a non-profit organization that works throughout the year to provide hope to families battling cancer in Wilson County and surrounding communities by offering emotional encouragement and financial assistance. In addition, Sherry’s Hope works to spread colon health awareness by distributing free colon cancer screening tests and providing colonoscopy assistance.