Song and Dance (and Painter and Sculptor …) Man
If you knock on Bill Ashwood’s apartment door at The Kenwood Retirement Community you may be greeted with an old showtune, perhaps “Cockeyed Optimist” from South Pacific, or a Gershwin tune.
Once inside his inviting apartment, you see more evidence of his artistic life – a dozen or so paintings – modern abstracts and those that are more representational. One shows a singing sextet taking a bow on stage. The scene is Shiek’s Café, and the singer on the far left is Bill Ashwood himself. The visual artist in Bill depicting the performance artist! All of Bill’s many talents have brought joy and beauty into the world.
Bill has lived at The Kenwood for almost two years and appreciates that he can be on his own or take part in The Kenwood life and activities. He often socializes at the free breakfast. He finds his life at The Kenwood is very comfortable, accessible, and he feels cared for by Kenwood staff.
Bill has lived most of his life in the Twin Cities area. He speaks fondly of growing up in South Minneapolis, attending Folwell Junior High and Roosevelt High School. He started working early, mowing lawns with a friend. Since then he’s found himself learning and excelling in a variety of trades including commercial art, teaching art and of course singing. This variety helped him, as he says, keep his “fingers in the pie.”
Always interested in the arts, Bill took an art correspondence course during his early teen years at Folwell, but instead of mailing his work in, he bussed to the art school in downtown Minneapolis and received his feedback in person. Later, he was able to put his art experience to work when he was a commercial artist, designing brochures, displays, and ads for several Twin Cities companies. When at Roosevelt High School, Bill explored his love of singing and received an Apollo Club scholarship which enabled him to get free music lessons. Those lessons sent him on a joyful trajectory of singing at a variety of venues in the Twin Cities including Shiek’s, Club Carnival, and the St. Paul Opera Company. He loved being able to sing in front of a crowd.
He married his high school sweetheart Clara in 1951. Clara was also a music lover. She worked in the sheet music department at Schmitt’s Music and played piano in the lounge at Shiek’s Café. The couple started a family, and you can imagine there were a lot of lullabies sung. After a stint in the Army as a “camouflage specialist” Bill returned to Minnesota and got a degree in art education at the University of Minnesota in 1954. He taught art in junior and high school in New Brighton. But he always kept his night job of singing around the Twin Cities.
Then Bill and Clara built a woodwork-filled home in New Brighton and raised their family of five there. Sadly, Clara died in 1975. Bill was fortunate to find another music-lover and married his second wife, Beverly, in 1977. They continued to live in the New Brighton home, raising their two children. Beverly performed with the Lakeshore Players Theatre in White Bear Lake, among other venues. She died in 1999. Bill continued to live in the New Brighton home until 2001, then moved down the block to an apartment in a friend’s home, where he stayed until he moved to The Kenwood. Bill has five sons and two daughters, 11 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Hopefully someday you will run into Bill, and he will sing you a tune, maybe “On the Street Where You Live” which in his case is at The Kenwood on Summit Avenue in Minneapolis.
About The Kenwood Senior Living
The Kenwood Senior Living is a rental retirement community which provides independent living and assisted living apartments and a full schedule of activities and services. Furnished apartments are also available for a short-term stay – a weekend, a week, a month or longer.
For more information call 612-374-8100.