By Ron Hayes
BOCA RATON — When staff members at the Boca Raton Historical Society wanted reliable information about the city’s early days, they called Dave Ashe.
He had lived those early days as a boy, and then, as a man, founded the society to help preserve them.
Mr. Ashe died Oct. 5 at Hospice by the Sea Care Center, leaving behind a city marked by his involvement in countless civic improvements. He was 90.
“I came to work here in 2002, and I’ve known him ever since,” recalled Susan Gillis, the historical society’s curator. “He was a wonderful contributor and informant who really saw the changes in the community, for good and bad.”
Mr. Ashe was born July 7, 1925, in Oak Hill, Fla., the fourth oldest of two brothers and nine sisters.
In 1930, when he was 5, the family moved to tiny Boca Raton. His father, Haden Ashe, was a bridge tender, first at the twin bridge over the Hillsboro Canal and later the Boca Raton Inlet Bridge, which was renamed the Haden Ashe Bridge in his honor. The family lived on a houseboat by the canal.
After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Mr. Ashe returned home, opened Causeway Lumber, a building supply company, and began a lifetime of community service, both in and out of government.
In 1950, he helped found and sponsor Little League baseball in the city.
When the U.S. government closed its local base, Mr. Ashe and two residents, Aris Smith and Dominic Jalbert, sued to retain 200 acres for what is now the Boca Raton Airport.
In 1960, he persuaded Arthur Vining Davis, owner of the Boca Raton Hotel & Club, to donate 12 acres for what is now the Silver Palm Boat Ramp.
In 1970, Mr. Ashe was a founder and first president of the historical society and was instrumental in preserving the old train depot, the Lillian Race Williams home and the old town hall, which now houses the society.
As a City Council member from 1973 to 1975, he and W.M. Cruickshank backed a bond issue to buy beachfront property from J. Myer and the Shine and Fisher families. The issue was approved, and today that land comprises Spanish River Park, Red Reef Park and South Beach Park.
An active member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Elks and Lions clubs, Mr. Ashe raised money to build the YMCA, founded the city’s Pioneer Club, and was first chairman of the blue ribbon beautification committee.
“What a gentleman he was!” said Al Travasos, who came to the City Council after Mr. Ashe’s tenure. “A really kind guy. He was a person who didn’t care if he had his picture in the paper or was social. He just had a vision for the city, and he initiated everything when Boca Raton was just beginning.”
Mr. Ashe is survived by his daughter, Sharon Springman, of Jupiter; a son, Joe Ashe, of Boca Raton; their mother, Betty Jo Whiddon; and three grandchildren.
A graveside service was held Oct. 9 at Boca Raton Cemetery.