A mentor, a hard worker, who was consummately dedicated to the Back Mountain Memorial Library - especially the library auction - Ernest (Ernie) Ashbridge, a friend to many, a former president of the Back Mountain Memorial Library Board and twice the auction chairman, died April 12, 2013. He was 82.
Ernie’s reputation, passion and inspiration to community service live on in the many volunteers he has solicited and encouraged as he did what he loved best - gathering antiques.
Here are some of the memories and comments from people who worked with him closely. As Ernie would often say when he saw a special antique - “Eeeeeow.”
Wayne Williams: “Ernie was “The American Picker.” He was our Frank and Mike. His amazing and outstanding knowledge of antiques and what they were worth cannot be replaced.”
Joanne Runner: “How hard he worked. How much he knew. He was a computer whiz, too, yet very kind to people and especially kids. He brought his grandchildren to the auction each year.”
Krista Connolly: “One of my favorite people - his presence was kind and gentle. I bid on a sofa one year. There were two sofas exactly alike except one had a bigger flaw than the other. I chose the one with the bigger flaw and got pressured by everyone to take the other one. Ernie came to my rescue saying, “It’s a woman’s prerogative to choose the one she wants.” And he would always stop by the desk and ask “Is there anything I should know about or help with?”
Karen Shuster: “Sixteen years ago, when I came to Hanover Bank, he asked me to be the financial chairman for the auction. I was concerned. Ernie said, ‘Don’t worry I’ll be there to help you.’ And he was, many times until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., helping me count money. He’s the reason I’m still volunteering today.”
Barbara Lemmond: He was at the auction site all the time, setting up lights, painting the bell and had a talent for setting up the antiques. Even when he didn’t feel well, he was there. He gave me the job of polishing the silverware, which he had no patience for.”
Leslie Horoshko: “I can’t say enough about him and his wife. Betty. I learned so much from them about buying antiques. He’d say ‘Get this for the library, I know it will sell.’ He had a knack for setting up the auction room and such feeling for the library.”
Pauline Kutz: “He gave me assignments but helped with everything, tirelessly, and did it all without much fanfare. But another side to Ernie that most people don’t remember was his work on the school board. He always had the community in mind and what was good for the average person.”
It will take many people to replace the work Ernie Ashbridge did for the library and the Back Mountain community. It is hoped that volunteers who follow will be as passionate, dedicated, knowledgeable and genteel as he was.