The Mount Airy Restoration Foundation held a Susan Ashby birthday celebration ice cream social Sunday at the historic Moore House that stands as a tribute to Ashby’s vision.
“We’re long overdue to officially honor Mrs. Ashby in some way,” said Foundation Chairman Peggy Rees. “We (the foundation) thought what could be more meaningful to her family and friends than to gather together at the William Allfred Moore house. Mrs. Ashby worked so hard to save this house for future generations.”
Rees recognized Ashby’s daughter Sara Phillips and her husband, Dan; Ashby’s son, Ted, and his wife Faith; Ashby’s brother Bill Pendleton and his wife, Becky; and Ashby’s nephew, Dan Pendleton and his wife, Faye. She also recognized City Commissioner Steve Yokeley and his wife, Ann as well as Commissioner Shirley Brinkley and her husband, Claude.
Rees welcomed groups including the Downtown Mount Airy Inc., Mount Airy Preservation Commission and the Mount Airy Appearance Commission. Rees recognized the Garden Gate Garden Club, Mountain View Garden Club and the Modern Gardener’s Garden Club for help and support “way beyond decorating the Moore House for the annual Tour of Homes.”
“Each day as you go about your daily life, stop and both enjoy the contributions Susan made and also realize that one person can make a tremendous difference to our community,” said Rees.
Former Foundation Chairman Betty Wright shared memories of working with Ashby with the social’s participants.
“I have been under Susan’s wing since 1991,” began Wright. “What a wonderful experience it has been through the years. I’d like to have time to tell you stories of all we have shared but we simply don’t have enough time for all I have experienced. I’ll tell you one story.”
Wright told the group about Ashby renting the home to a Revolutionary War Historical group. Another gentleman, Walt Mason was also living in the house at the time. All of the lights suddenly went out at the house one night. Mason called Ashby who called Wright and the two ladies sped over to the house.
They were met at the door by Mason. He was holding a candle and wearing no pants, just his underwear.
“All the folks staying at the house thought it was part of the program,” laughed Wright.
There were serious stories about Ashby as well.
“Susan was a pioneer in improving restoration and the appearance of our community,” said Wright. “Her goals included beautifying our surroundings and saving our heritage.” Wright said that Ashby was instrumental in the mural projects downtown, hanging baskets on Main Street, lighting of city trees at Christmas and setting up historical districts in the city which improved property values and preserved local history.
She added that the Foundation’s endowment for the house is growing, with more than 179 members contributing.
“You can just look at this house and say this is Susan,” added Wright. “She never dodged a responsibility. Susan was a combination of Southern hospitality, unlimited energy and a passion for preservation. Her footprint has made a visible mark on our community and an indelible impression on my heart.”
Members of the original eleven who began the restoration efforts scheduled to participate at the ice cream social were Barbara Summerlin, Prescilla Hortor, Diana Ellis, Gary Pruett, Berta Glen Springthorpe and Barbara Holcomb.
Caretaker for all the foundation flower projects in Mount Airy, Michella Huff, also attended the event. According to foundation member Barbara Oliver, Huff began working for the group when she was 16. Oliver remembers Huff having to carry water for the plants in gallon milk jugs because the city had no watering equipment.
The William Alfred Moore House was built in 1860 and is the earliest known structure remaining in the town of Mount Airy. The front yard of the house contains a rustic hexagonal summer house, circa 1865, constructed with wood poles and intertwining laurel root walls and a shingle roof. Moore’s ancestors were early Surry County pioneers.
The house and grounds are open for tours by appointment. Interested people may call Betty Wright at 336-786-4512 or the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce at 336-786-6116.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.