July 17, 2013 - "It hasn't hit me yet. It probably won't until the morning of the parade."
Fredric and Cindy Ashley will serve as Grand Marshals for Leonard's Strawberry Festival parade July 20. Photo by CJC. (click for larger version)
That's how Leonard resident Fredric Ashley described his feelings about he and his wife of 38 years, Cindy, being named parade Grand Marshals for the 61st Annual Leonard Strawberry Festival set for Saturday, July 20.
"It's an honor," said Fredric, who's lived in Leonard for 37 years.
Cindy is humbled because she sees it as a sign of acceptance – that even though they weren't born and raised in Leonard, the town considers them worth honoring after all these years.
"It's very nice, but it makes me feel very old. It's usually the people that have been here forever," she joked. "But it's an honor that these people think we deserve this."
This honor was bestowed because of all the good work Fredric does for his small town on a daily basis.
"I always pick somebody who is active in the community – a good citizen that helps whenever they are needed," explained Festival Committee Member Char Sutherby. "Fred is really good about that."
He's donated a flagpole to the village. He does trimming in the village's only park and along the roads. He cuts up downed trees along the Polly Ann Trail "without being asked." He helps elderly neighbors.
"He just quietly does little things that are needed in the community," Sutherby said. "He's just a really nice citizen."
When asked why he does all these things, Fredric replied, "I just like to give back. It's just what I do.
"I don't expect any recognition or anything like that. It's just that I enjoy helping others."
Although Fredric's called Leonard his home for nearly four decades, he was born and raised in Oxford Village and graduated from Oxford High School in 1965. His parents were Clifford (or Pete) and Ruth Ashley, a couple that used to own a grocery store in downtown Oxford.
Fredric's first job was at Van Wagoner's pharmacy in downtown Oxford. He was 14.
"I was there when Bill Patterson took over from Lee Van Wagoner (in 1964)," he said.
Fredric and his wife purchased their 8.5-acre Leonard farm from Ralph Curtis in 1976 and built a life on Baza St.
Over the years, he's grown hay, planted some nice vegetable gardens and raised animals including a potbellied pig, a cow, chickens and horses.
Fredric's also a farrier, someone who specializes in caring for a horse's hooves. His work includes trimming and balancing the hooves along with shoeing them.
"I've been doing that for 24 years," said Fredric, who learned the skill by taking a course at Mott Community College.
"I took the class and that was it – I fell in love with it. That's what the good Lord put me on this Earth for. I have about 15 to 20 regular customers. They keep me busy."
On top of that, he spends five days a week taking care of a 50-acre horse farm in Metamora.
For a guy who retired from General Motors in 2000 after 35 years, Fredric still seems to work pretty hard.
"I stay busy," he said. "I inherited it from my mom and dad. They always stayed busy and I'm the same way. I enjoy it."
Despite his high-level of activity, Fredric thoroughly appreciates the simplicity of farm life in a small town.
"It's quiet, laid back, just easygoing," he said.
Cindy enjoys living right by the Polly Ann Trail.
"I had a problem with it at first, but I like it now," she said. "I'm on it almost daily with my dog."
Given his life now, it's hard to believe Fredric once had his finger on the button during the Cold War. Back when he was in the U.S. Army from 1966-68, he was stationed in West Germany, where he worked with nuclear weapons.
"We had our missiles pointed at Yugoslavia, Russia, Czechoslovakia, all over," he said. "It was quite the experience."
As always, Fredric and Cindy are looking forward to spending time with their family and neighbors at the Strawberry Festival.
"We make a good day of it," he said.
"I just think it's a nice little hometown festival," said Cindy, who worked for Oxford Schools for 24 years before retiring in 2009 as manager of the middle school cafeteria.
Fredric's favorite part is the ice cream sundaes dished out by Addison Township firefighters.
"I generally eat about six every year," he said. "The hotter it is, the more I eat."
When asked if prefers the strawberry topping or the chocolate sauce, he replied, "I use both." Our kind of guy.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.