Longtime Gila Community College board member Bob Ashford died this week, after a long and tenacious fight with illness.
Ashford for years utterly dominated the GCC board, helping build enrollment, broaden offerings and move through a series of hard decisions and unexpected controversy.
He passed away on Jan. 28, having uncharacteristically missed a growing number of meetings in the past year.
“It is with great sadness that Gila Community College announces that Robert S. Ashford ... passed away on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at the age of 69 in Mesa, Arizona,” wrote officials at GCC, “Robert was a humble man who derived great joy from helping others. His leadership will be missed.”
Ashford served on the GCC board for 14 years, a dozen of them as president.
Ashford was a pioneer, establishing GCC as one of the first functioning provisional community college districts in the country. During much of his reign the college made steady gains in enrollment.
The Globe board member sometimes proved controversial and often found himself in opposition to representatives from Northern Gila County. Ashford also remained a consistent supporter of GCC’s contract with Eastern Arizona College and remained the single most important college advocate and policy maker for more than a decade.
Ashford’s family said he was born on Jan. 21, 1945 in Monte Vista, Colo. As a child he moved to Miami, Ariz.
In 1965 the U.S. Army drafted him and he was stationed in Germany for the Vietnam war.
Ashford focused his career in information technology. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1991 and a master’s in business, both from the University of Phoenix.
He started his career at the Pinto Valley Mine and stayed at the mine working for the several companies that purchased the property, until he retired from BHP in 1999. He then started working for the Apache Gold Casino, retiring in 2012.
Ashford’s family said he enjoyed an active life with camping, hunting, fishing, golf, photography, jewelry making, reupholstering antique furniture, gardening, landscaping, restoring his Datsun 280Z, and caring for his pet dogs, cats and koi.
Ashford is survived by his wife of 20 years, JoAnn, son Kevin and his daughter, Michael Flores, and his nieces, Trena Grantham and Melanie Kerchkhoff and his nephew, Bain Grantham.
Services will be held on Feb. 1 at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Miami, Ariz. with visitation at 9 a.m., a rosary at 9:30 and a funeral Mass at 10.