1921 - 2010
Esther E. Ashton, 88, born Nov. 10, 1921, passed away on Aug. 17, 2010 after a long battle with Leukemia and heart disease.
Mrs. Ashton was born in White River, S.D. to Jane and Myron Middlesworth. As a small child, she traveled with her parents on a homemade covered wagon across South Dakota settling in Custer, S.D. As a young teen she worked during the summer with her father cutting wood. In the winter she was a nanny for Senator E.Y. Berry. Although she loved the outdoors, she soon found that cooking for others indoors would become her passion.
In 1946 she moved to Belle Fourche, S.D. to be with her mother and sisters. There she met and married Bill Ashton. She was a great seamstress and while working a short time for J.C. Penney’s she made draperies for people building new homes. Her husband made cabinets while she would make the draperies. They were a good team, but she still had the drive to go back to cooking in restaurants. For 20 years she owned and operated several restaurants in Belle Fourche.
They moved to Muddy Gap, Wyo. and opened a small restaurant. Business was good, but the winters were not. She and her husband started searching for a warm place to live. They wanted a small town and in 1969, discovered Payson, Ariz. Here she worked and managed many restaurants. Her chili special was a big hit at the Knotty Pine Café. She also managed and cooked at the 260 Café. Her Sunday specials became a do not miss for many of the local people. She also soon became known as the Pie Lady when she started working at the Beeline Café.
She worked for more than 30 years. She loved working at the Beeline Café and was also known for her lunch specials, but pies really became her signature. She retired at the age of 84.
Mrs. Ashton also loved fishing. Her other hobbies included traveling, reading, putting puzzles together and playing cribbage.
Survivors include sisters, Katherine Cooley of Belle Fourche, S.D. and Thelma Wright of Citrus, Calif.; daughter, Frances (Robert) Sigdestad of Payson; sons, Bill (Sheri) Roberts of Helena, Mont., Joe (Diane) Ashton of Littleton, Colo., Jim (Becky Olson) Ashton of Payson; six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her first husband, George Roberts; husband, William “Bill” Ashton; and one brother, Charles Middlesworth; also a beloved cat named “Sheba” who never missed following her into the kitchen because she knew a good cooked meal was being made.
An open house in celebration of Mrs. Ashton’s life will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 28 at her daughter’s home, 318 N. Pioneer Trail, Payson. A private memorial service is planned at a later date in Hill City, S.D.