Minna Marie Ashby

Minna Ashby

Marie Ashby, a recent resident of St. Petersberg, Florida, passed away after a brief illness on January 13, 2018. She was 87 years old. Marie was born on December 7, 1930 in Angleton,  TX to her father, James Hilary Sandlin, who spent much of his life farming rice and soybeans, and her mother, Elise Frese Sandlin, who taught Spanish in primary school.  Marie was the second eldest of four children.  Her brothers James and Joe, and her sister Pat precede her in death.  The family moved to Anahuac, TX when Marie was seven years old and that's where she grew up.


While her brothers attended Texas A&M, Marie and her sister attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she met her future husband,  Bill Ashby, who had grown up in Gatesville, another small Texas town. Marie was a student in the Plan II Honors Program pursuing a pre-med concentration, while Bill majored in chemical engineering. Following their graduation and marriage in 1951, Marie declined offers to attend medical school and instead accompanied Bill to Ann Arbor, Michigan where he pursued his masters and doctorate degrees at the University of Michigan.


 In rapid succession over the next ten years, their five children were born. Moving to new homes in new places became a dominant theme for their family. As a chemical engineer working for Exxon, Bill's job took them first to Baytown, Texas; then to Abadan, Iran; back to Baytown, Texas; then Yokohama and Tokyo, Japan; Summit, New Jersey; Brockenhurst, England; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, before retiring to The Woodlands, north of Houston.  After living in Houston for 35 years they recently elected to downsize and moved to an apartment in St. Petersberg, Florida.


Although nurturing the talent and promise of her children—and other children in the communities — were her first priorities and the source of her deepest pride and joy, Marie always found meaningful activities to pursue in every place she lived.  In addition to raising her children, Marie served as President of the Baytown, TX chapter of the League of Women Voters, where she successfully campaigned to raise money for and build a new public library, and successfully introduced legislation to regulate and ensure the safety of meat products produced in the region where they lived. While residing in Japan, Marie studied ikebana while also striving to gain proficiency in the Japanese language. In New Jersey, she served as a substitute school teacher in Summit's public schools system. In Baton Rouge, she obtained her realtor's license and sold homes, while also serving as President of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters there. She also took on dramatic roles in theatrical performances at The Baton Rouge Little Theater, and ran for a seat in the Louisiana State Legislature -- only narrowly defeated by the incumbent who had held the seat for more than 20 years. In the Woodlands, Texas, Marie again served as President of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, and also served on the League's state board in Austin, in both capacities striving for state constitutional reform. Additionally, Marie worked with other residents in the Woodlands to build a new public library, and was successful in this mission as well. 


Marie always enjoyed visits from her children and grandchildren, and dabbled in painting and drawing. In later years, she especially enjoyed watching birds visiting the feeders Bill set up outside the picture window next to the kitchen table, and often joked that next she would take up opera singing.  Alas, left undone on her to-do list was the continuation of flying lessons she'd enjoyed as a young woman, to earn her pilot's license.


Marie is survived by her husband and five children--James Paul Ashby of Mountain View, CA, Laura Elles Ashby of St. Petersberg, FL, Lynn Ashby Savarese of New York City, NY, Robert Jeffers Ashby of Moraga, CA, and William Sandlin Ashby of Seattle, WA. She is also survived by her 10 grandchildren.


Marie finally achieved her lifelong ambition to attend medical school by having her body donated to University of Texas's McGovern Medical School, but will be best-remembered as the best mother ever, and will remain very much a vibrant source of inspiration to all who knew her. In lieu of flowers, the family would be most grateful for donations to be made to the "Bill and Marie Ashby Endowed Presidential Scholarship," which was established by the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System on July 12, 2010, to fund two Endowed Presidential Scholarships; one for the Plan II Honors Program and one for the Cockrell School of Engineering. To learn more about how to make a gift, please visit: https://che.utexas.edu/how-to-make-a-gift/