William (Bill) Ash
A LESSON IN FORTITUDE
29/10/1918 – 17/12/2022
Bill was born into an extended Methodist family in Leek where he grew up. When he was five his father died so he started to help his mother by growing vegetables with the encouragement of his next door neighbour. Before long he had a little greenhouse and started to grow tender plants there. One day at Calderstone Park, Liverpool, a gardener perceived his keenness and gave him some begonia cuttings which began a passion for that species. As a young man he damaged his spine and was unable to walk until prayers of the World Healing Crusade aided his recovery and confirmed his lifelong faith in Jesus Christ.
He married Ada In 1958 and they were blessed with a lovely daughter Susan in 1964. He cared for his wife through several painful years of rheumatoid arthritis until her death in 1989. In 1990 he married Muriel at Normacot Methodist Church. They first met in 1963 when they were both working for the RAF at Cheadle. Muriel’s friendship of the family had helped him through the difficulties of his wife’s illness.
Bill and Muriel came to live in Loggerheads and joined Ashley Methodist Church where Muriel continued to serve as a local preacher. (She will celebrate 60 years’ service in April this year). They have given great support to our church over the years, particularly by opening their beautiful garden to visitors during the fundraising for our extensive modernisation and refurbishment in 1994. For many years Bill’s display of begonias greatly enhanced our harvest festival decorations bringing glory to our Creator and pleasure to us all.
In 1986 Bill exhibited 87 varieties of begonia at Stoke-on-Trent Garden Festival. Tips on display techniques from Percy Thrower at Shrewsbury Flower Show helped him to earn a gold medal at RHS Halls in London in 1994 and a silver at Chelsea Flower Show in 1996. He became a renowned figure in horticultural circles. He was a back-up for the national collection in Glasgow and exchanged plants with Kew Gardens, RHS Wisley and Liverpool Botanics.
He and Muriel enjoyed extensive travels in their retirement and made contact with begonia enthusiasts all over the world. Bill was a member of the American Begonia Society and was welcomed at botanical establishments worldwide including Madeira, Borneo, new Guinea and Honolulu to mention only a few.
Throughout his life Bill suffered from poor health and mobility yet he never allowed this to limit his activities and he rarely complained. Those who had the privilege of knowing him enjoyed his wry sense of humour and admired his stoicism, determination, generosity and eternal optimism. After 94 years of service to his Lord, his family, church and friends we rejoice that he is now at rest with his Maker.