This year, New Franklin’s Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Service will be a little more bittersweet, a little more personal, for many of the city’s residents.
A 1-mile stretch of West Nimisila Road from South Main Street to state Route 93 will be dedicated on Monday by Mayor Paul F. Adamson as the Joseph Allen "Joey" Ashley Memorial Highway.
Navy Machinist Mate 2nd Class Ashley was killed in a devastating submarine accident on Jan. 9, 2005, in the South Pacific. His submarine hit an undersea mountain and was barely able to surface.
Although it’s taken 14 years to have the road renamed, the time is right, said Ashley’s mother, Vicki Matics. She will serve as grand marshal of the parade, which should start about 10 a.m. One of his brothers, Ben Ashley, will speak at the ceremony, and much of Joseph Ashley’s family will be there.
“I asked Ben to speak,” Matics said in a phone interview Thursday from her home in Spencer, West Virginia, where Joseph Ashley is buried. “I thought it would be an honor for [Ben] to honor his brother, himself.”
Ashley and his family lived for many years along the stretch of road that will bear his name, and Ben Ashley will speak about a quarter-mile from their old home, Adamson said.
Memories of Joseph Ashley stretch the entire length of the memorial highway.
“He walked that road to the school … to the practice field,” Matics said.
In youth sports, Adamson coached Joseph Ashley and his brothers.
“All of these guys played for me,” the mayor said.
The idea to rename the road came from an old friend of Ashley’s, Dusty Smith.
“This is the 20th year of [Ashley’s] graduation from Manchester High School,” the mayor said. “Dusty reached out to me and said the class would like to do something with Joey.”
At the event, a commemorative Joseph Allen "Joey" Ashley Memorial Highway sign will be presented to Joseph Ashley’s family, the mayor said. Two larger signs will mark either end of the memorial highway.
“Joey loved life,” Matics said. “He was happy; he could make people happy.”
And in memory of her son, Matics said that Monday’s ceremony will be as he would want.
“It’s just amazing that somebody thought of this,” Matics said. “It’s going to be a happy day. [Joey] was never one for crying.”
Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or email@example.com.