5 July 1937 to 22 December 2020
This page includes a video of the funeral held at St James on 8 January 2021 and the eulogies given at the service.
A eulogy by Rod’s son Simon
Rod was born in Crewe, Cheshire, on 5th July 1937, to Winifred and George, a younger brother to Geoff and Stewart. Growing up in Crewe, his early years saw him attending Eddlestone Road Primary school, and then onto Crewe Grammar School. It was during these school years he became good friends with Neville, Roger, Colin and several others. Dad remained in touch with these good friends all these years, meeting up with them regularly for a catch-up and a decent pub lunch.
Although Dad come from a rather non-musical family, he was clearly born with some sort of musical genes, and he took very quickly to the piano, aged 8. He was a proficient pianist, and lessons with Miss Gittings, assisted by hours of practice on the Grand Piano at the family home on Nantwich Road, saw him attain Grade 8 by the time he was 18.
The piano, and his love of music in general, would go on to play a huge part of Dad’s life. Indeed, he actually became incapable of walking past a piano without ‘playing a few notes’ or ‘having a tinkle’ as he called it, and our family piano would always remain open, saying to him ‘play me’, whenever a spare moment allowed.
Before Dad could think too much about his future after high school, at 18 years old, he was enlisted into National Service with the RAF, where he would be stationed, for the most time, at RAF Cosford. I know Dad didn’t find that time easy, but I also know he was incredibly proud to have completed this service.
After completing National Service, Dad made a decision to embark on a teaching career which saw him move to Manchester and Didsbury Teaching College. It was here that he would meet Sydney, and Alex Royle, his pal Al – two more friendships that would last a lifetime. Dad and Alex bought their first car together, a blue Ford Pop, which would take them on many adventures, as far afield as the Black Forest .
When they started teaching, Dad would later drop Alex off at Cavendish Road Primary School. This brought him into contact with Helena, with whom he became friends, and a certain young teacher called Dorothy (or Dolly) Foy, who we all know would go on to become Dolly Ashman.
Happy times followed and in the early years, along with Alex, Dad and Mum became involved with South Manchester Amateur Operatic Society. They would go on to perform many many roles in shows with SMAOS, produce shows, support shows, and it was yet another place that he forged lasting friendships with so many people: Bill and Edna Lawson, Wendy Lees, Glenn and Sheila Fildes, the Newhalls, the Adsheads, to name but a few. He was a committed supporter of SMAOS and went on to become chairman for some time.
Dad became involved in the Northenden Players too, yet another association they would continue to be linked with for life, providing huge support to them throughout the years.
In 1963, just before they would perform as chorus members together in the Merry Widow, Dad and mum got engaged. They married on 15 August 1964, and settled into life at 43 Dene Road, Didsbury. Louise was born in August 1967, and I came along in October 1969. We went to Elm Grove primary school, and it was in those early years that yet more friendships were made: the Helms, the Kumars, and many more.
Dad and Mum attended, and become involved with, St James and Emmanuel Parish churches. They both supported the churches, for a time acting as wardens, and for a long period Dad gave time up to help prepare and serve lunch-time meals to those less fortunate.
It is fitting that we are able to celebrate his life in St James today, so many years later.
In 1969, Dad had been teaching at Benchill Primary School, where he would meet Pam, who joined the staff there at the start of her teaching career. Pam has described Dad as an absolute joy to work with, that he helped make the work environment a happy place, and that he even led Cha Cha Cha dance lessons in the staff room at lunch time. I can just imagine it! Pam would go on to babysit for me and Louise, and our families have remained close, sharing good times over the years.
Dad then moved on to St Wilfrid’s C of E in Northenden (a school where my own children much later attended, and where Dad would later give up time to perform governor’s duties).
From there it was on to Cornbrook Primary, where Dad got his first deputy head post, and then St Andrew’s Primary in Levenshulme, where Dad would get his first headship.
One final permanent role took him to Didsbury C of E (or Elm Grove) in 1981, where he was the head teacher for around 10 years. After retirement Dad went on to do several stints of supply teaching in the south Manchester and Stockport areas. He was a well respected teacher and headmaster, and I have read numerous messages of support from former students and colleagues alike affirming this. He was a good role model.
During his teaching career dad became involved with numerous societies. In particular, I remember him being involved in the Manchester Folk Dance Society. He became an impressive barn dance caller, at first accompanied by himself playing the piano, and later using records with a big speaker – I know so many of us have been the victim of a failed Strip the Willow at some party or other fund raising event (of which there were many). Dad was always extremely patient with us and persevered until we ALMOST got it right.
In 1981 we moved to 37 Victoria Avenue where we would meet our great former neighbours Rob and Hilary, Jan and Hans, Linda. Again we shared some great times and remain friends with them all to this day.
I have such brilliant memories of growing up. Dad wasn’t a great fisherman, but he always indulged my love for fishing and often took me out, firstly to buy maggots then off to try and catch some fish – we weren’t often very successful. A favourite location of ours was Lymm Dam. Dad would take me to Maine Road to watch Manchester City – he never went without a flask of hot tea in his bag, and chewing gum in his pocket. Win or lose, we always had a dodgy hot dog on the way home – a real treat,
He would take me to cubs, or cricket, and take Louise to ballet or brownies… trips to the park, picnics at the seaside which normally involved Tuc biscuits with chicken paste or sandwich spread and a sprinkling of sand… all good memories.
Birthdays and Christmas were always made special. We always had lots of people round for parties, buffets, silly games. Dad always loved a table tennis game of ‘round the table’ – it was exhausting. He always had time for us.
We had lots of great family holidays. The caravan in Anglesey, where we would share the toilet block with sheep, and here we would all wear our matching Arran jumpers and bobble hats. Holidays to Abersoch in the trailer tent, and later to Spain, Italy, Greece. We always had loads of fun on holidays, and would often meet up with friends for walks and picnics.
Dad continued to support us through our teenage years and into adulthood – he always had time for our friends and took time to talk to them. He always showed a genuine interest in other people!
I worked at Evans the greengrocers in Didsbury village when Dad was the head at Elm Grove – I have fond memories of our weekly lunchtime meetings for a pint and a pub lunch – I’m sure that sort of reckless behaviour would be frowned upon now.
When I married Wendy, and Louise married Guy, Dad loved the prospect of becoming a grandparent. When that time came, he was affectionately known to the grandchildren as Poppa – a name we all loved to call him. My son Josh will speak shortly about Poppa, on behalf of the grandchildren.
Dad always loved a good party. Friends have described him as the life and soul of any party, and he was never far away from the dance floor, particularly when a certain Tony Christie song was played – Amarillo. Dad’s all time favourite song is one many of us will associate him with. As you know, Dad was always well turned out and took pride in his appearance. However, the mere sound of Tony Christie would have him taking his shirt off, swinging it round his head like a wild man.
Dad had a good life, and forged many long lasting friendships along the way. It is these friendships, both the strength and the length of them, that were one of Dad’s many virtues.
We, as a family, have sought comfort in the kind words shared by so many of these friends, family, former colleagues and acquaintances. He has been described as:
A TRUE GENTLEMAN, CARING, KIND AND GRACIOUS, LOVELY, JUST THE NICEST COOLEST GUY, WARM AND CARING WITH A SUPPORTIVE POSITIVE NATURE, A PROUD FAMILY MAN, A DEAR FRIEND, AN EXCEPTIONAL MAN, THE WORLD’S MOST NICEST MAN
The kind words go on…
A great father. A great husband. And a great friend to so many. Dad, our memories of you will last forever.
A eulogy by Rod’s grandson Josh
I think firstly I’d like to start by saying thank you to everyone who could make it today. I know in these times we are unfortunately limited with numbers, but I know for sure that there are many watching from home and thinking of us, and sharing the emotions that we all feel in this room. It’s a tough day, and it’s also a special day I think in saying goodbye, but also celebrating the life of Rodney Ashman, and honouring the great man he was. Whilst naturally it has been a challenging few weeks for everyone, the sheer volume of people who have reached out to pay their respects is only a testimony to the lives he personally touched and the person he wanted to be.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Josh, and I am one of the grandchildren along with my brother Tom, cousins Sam and Layla, and more recently Sarah and Issy. All of you in this room will know Rod in different ways, whether it was husband, father, cousin, uncle or friend. But to me, he has always been Poppa. I wanted to share a few words today to reflect on the my last 24 years and remember all the great memories we had together.
I speak on behalf of all the grandchildren in saying that we all feel very lucky to share the relationship we had together, and we could very easily spend all day reminiscing about stories and times spent together, but I wanted to pick a few which really stand out.
When we were younger, Grandma and Poppa would often take myself and Tom away for weekends in the caravan. And I remember it vividly, each night, we would go for our showers, and before we went to bed we would always ask Grandma to make us a small sandwich – Poppa’s responsibility was story time. To anyone who knew Poppa, they know what a great story teller he was. A personal favourite of ours was the stories centred around Four Fields Farm. Each night, Poppa would make up bedtime stories about Farmer Edward and Farmer Helga, and who could forget Bonzo the Dog. It started off as simple stories, but each night me and Tom wanted more, and the stories became more and more elaborate. More and more characters got involved: there was now a Handyman Arthur, the policeman Sergeant Pepper, there was Fireman Pumble. The characters even extended to farm animals too! Hyacinth, the best cow in the near field, and Larry, the best sheep in the far field. We had to start correcting Poppa on the names every week, he couldn’t keep up with his own creation! Then to our surprise, he took it to the next level. The next time we went away, we had our showers, we were eating our sandwiches and when it came to story time, Poppa pulled out a drawing where he has brought Four Fields Farm to life. All the details were there, the top field where the corn grew, the bottom field which had the empty barn where the children played, and Buttercup River which ran all the way through the farm. It brought the story to life, and there was no way he was getting mixed up with names now!
Another memory we have, was building pirate ships in the garden. Again we were still young, so he had to do all of the heavy lifting whilst we waited in anticipation. We would put two benches together, get a sail up. Poppa would even make a mast with a Jolly Rodger flag to make it all the more real for us. It even had a plank, which I’m sure we made him walk sometimes! We would play on that ship for hours on end, and as you can imagine, every single time we went round after that, you can bet we campaigned for the ship to be built.
One final memory, and maybe our most fondest. Pile ons. It was basically a wresting contest we used to have in the living room, and must have started when we were around five or six. It was all fun and games at first, we stood no chance. But as the years passed by, we grew bigger, and the tables were starting to turn. Poppa must have started dreading us coming round as we tried to rope him into more.
After me and my brother, then came along Sam. Sam Was born in 2005. Most of you will know, Sam was born with Downs Syndrome, and associated health issues meant that he later developed further disabilities. I think this brought Poppa particularly close to Sam, and he loved to spend time with him. Seemingly endless trips to Alder Hey, Stepping Hill and Manchester Children’s hospital followed over the years, but Grandma and Poppa would always be there to offer support and respite. I know Louise and Guy will be forever grateful for the time he gave, particularly during the most difficult of times.
Later on in 2014, the family grew again and Layla became part of the family. Whilst he was a few years older, he didn’t shirk his responsibility. To Layla’s disappointment Pile Ons were a thing of the past, but Poppa carried on his daft antics to be the best possible Grandpa he could.
So, I want to finish up here really. As I have said, I feel incredibly lucky to share an amazing relationship with Poppa over the last 24 years, I picked out three memories which sit very close to my heart, however a lifetime of memories have been made and I will cherish them dearly for the rest of my life. It’s a sad day, but again a special day, and whilst the overriding emotion is sadness, let’s celebrate the life that he lived and look at it with a smile on our faces. Poppa lived to the grand age of 83. He had a good innings, and whilst he is no longer here with us now, his memory lives on in all of us, and I know for a fact he is up there pouring himself a gin and tonic on ice.