JoAnn Rosenberg Ashley

JoAnn (Rosenberg) Ashley, a wonderful mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and sister, died peacefully at Attic Angels in Middleton on April 6, 2019. She was 95. 

JoAnn was born in Kennett, Missouri on March 22, 1924, the eldest of three daughters of Florence and Lee Rosenberg, a cotton merchant and dry goods store owner. She grew up in Manila in northeast Arkansas and across the border in Hornersville, Missouri where she graduated from Hornersville High School in 1940. She loved Hornersville and worked at a bank there for a time before entering college at Memphis State University (now University of Memphis) where she got her undergraduate and law degrees. As a woman graduating near the top of her class from law school, and times being what they were, she worked as a receptionist at a law firm in Memphis where she was asked to write briefs and do other legal work surreptitiously from her post at the front desk. She soon decided that her talents could be better used in a corporate law department so she went to New York to begin her career with the Home Life Insurance Company (now Phoenix). She became an expert in annuities and insurance products like split dollar life insurance and seemed surprised when others did not have the same interest or excitement about those kinds of things. (She felt the same way about the Tax Code which she always appreciated for its "fine distinctions."). 

It was in New York that she met the love of her life, Walter Ashley, an Englishman from Lincoln, and they were married there in 1959. They had one son, Chris, and were fortunate to watch him grow up and marry the love of his life, Annette, and together have three children, Nicholas, Anna and Alex who inherited their grandmother's strong work ethic, sense of adventure, love of travel and food, and appreciation for a good martini (when they're old enough of course).

JoAnn and Walter made so many great friends in New York, North Carolina, and Wisconsin and were fortunate to be able to travel the world together in retirement until Walter's passing in 2006. In later years, JoAnn was able to focus her attention on her beloved grandchildren and spent many weekends and evenings watching them in plays, concerts, swim meets, graduations, and many other events that made her proud. She stayed active in PEO and dedicated her time and talents to the Attic Angels Association and Prairie Point Neighborhood in Madison, and to First Congregational UCC in Hendersonville, NC where she established the Walter E. Ashley Memorial Lecture Series which is still going strong.

Although JoAnn lived in the "North" for a long time, she reminded people that she was from the South, meaning that she didn't care much for cold weather or snow, and reserved the right to call friends and relatives "sweetheart," "darlin'" or "honey" as it suited her. She was quick to volunteer to make a cheesecake or pie for a new neighbor or for a gathering to play bridge. She was warm and gracious her entire life and had a great ability to make lasting friends wherever she went. She could also be a bit stubborn: an active driver's license and the keys to her trusty Subaru remained in her purse until the day she died on her expectation that she would soon get well and "just be able to run to Walgreen's" when she needed to. 

She had a very strong faith and was thankful for the long life the Lord gave her. In her own words: "I have had a wonderful life - blessed with a wonderful family and many friends - for which I am very thankful. I love you all."

She is survived by her son Chris Ashley and daughter-in-law Annette (Wencl) Ashley of Middleton, WI; her three grandchildren, Nicholas, Anna and Alex; her sister Polly Fisher and brother-in-law Richard Fisher of Sebastian, FL, her sister in law, Jean Morley of Swindon, England and her family, her nephew Dan Fisher of Fair Lawn, NJ, and her niece Kay Jackson of Port Orchard, WA, and their families. She was preceded in death by her husband, Walter, and her sister Frieda Boyle.

A Celebration of Life service will be held at Attic Angel Place, 8301 Old Sauk Road, Middleton at 10:00 a.m on Friday, April 12.

Jo Ann was a very proud grandmother, and she found great joy in watching her grandchildren involved in their many musical activities in Middleton public schools. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the MCPASD Education Foundation for music programming in the school district at 7106 South Ave., Middleton, WI 53562 or online at; or to Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) at 3502 Parmenter Street, Middleton, WI 53562.

The family is very grateful to the staff at Attic Angels and Agrace Hospice who cared for her an kept her comfortable. Please share your memories.

Cress Funeral Home
6021 University Ave.
Madison, WI 53705
(608) 238-8406

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