Life Of A Storyteller Is Celebrated


James Clayton Ashby, known by all as Clay, has gone on to tell his colorful stories in heaven to all those who have gone before.

Mr. Ashby was born at home in Phoenix on Sept. 29, 1929 to Paul Revere and Polly Rodema Ashby. Clay was the seventh of 11 children: Paul, Bob, John, Norman, Glenn, Barbara, Alice, Janet, Lee and Christine.

In 1938, Paul Revere Ashby bought the CI Ranch (Christopher Creek), which was the original 160-acre homestead of the mountain man Isadore Christopher, who rounded up wild mustangs for the Fort McDowell Cavalry unit. The stories surrounding Isadore are a part of Arizona legend.

At age 14, Mr. Ashby spent his first winter alone at the ranch and the following winter of 1943 stayed with Polly, Lee and Christine. He traveled 20 miles round-trip each day by horseback, to get fresh milk for Christine, who was only a small infant.

In 1946, Mr. Ashby joined the U.S. Marine Corps, and spent 18 months in Kodiak, Alaska in the motor pool. By 1948, he was re-stationed in Barstow, Calif. Upon returning to Payson, he went to work for Keith Owens as a logger. Mr. Ashby was on his way to ASU, when they stopped at Kohl's Ranch to get the mail and discovered he had been summoned back to the Marine Corps, stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

A new chapter in his life began when he married Barbara Ann Kemp in March, 1950 and upon discharge in 1952, returned to Payson, where in the next seven years they gave life to Clayann (1952), Vickie Lee (1954) and James Austin (1957). Mr. Ashby returned to logging for Keith Owens. In 1956, moved the family to the Santa Cruz Mountains to log for Ralph Miller. By 1958, he was driving lumber trucks interstate. 1960 saw their return to Arizona, where Mr. Ashby continued to ‘haul' logs to Nebraska.

His life was never an easy one, and fraught with personal challenges, however in 1963, he found new love and started the next chapter with Carol Pyle and his six new daughters.

During the next few years he was brought more joy with the birth of Hiddie Beth (1963), Nathalie Faye (1965) and Carolyn Rose (1966). In 1972, Mr. Ashby and family moved to Chevelon Butte Logging Camp, where he built logging roads. Raising three little ones on the mountain was always challenging and pleasurable. Clay and Carol continued to love and cherish their family, until Carol's passing in 1978.

Mr. Ashby's final chapter of life was blessed by the gift of Ellie Davis Lee, whom he married in 1982. Ellie was Clayton's strength, as he overcame his personal demons and helped him build the RV Park in Christopher Creek. He was called upon, even up into his 60s, to operate heavy equipment on the Rim, as well as plow snow at Christopher Creek for its residents.

Mr. Ashby led a colorful and eventful life; he never knew a stranger and never forgot a name or place.

In recent years, he became known for being a storyteller and reliving those times with much humor and always-colorful adjectives and expletives.

Mr. Ashby is survived by wife, Ellie; brother, Glenn; sisters, Alice and Christine; daughters, Clayann, Vickie, Hiddie, Nathalie, Carolyn, Sarah, Paula, Nora, Mary, Tammy, Karen. There are 32 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren who will miss him.

He is preceded in death by son, Austin; parents, Paul Revere and Polly; five brothers and two sisters.

A celebration of his life will be held at the Payson Elks Lodge at 10 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 25. Graveside services to follow at the Payson Pioneer Cemetery.

Family and friends are invited to share their personal memories with the family at the C Canyon RV Park, Christopher Creek immediately following services.

Memorial donations may be made in Mr. Ashby's name to RTA Hospice.

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