Second time and hopefully better than the first.
Memories of My Friend, Tom Ashe
I have known Tom Ashe since the autumn of 1971. We also worked together in parts of the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2002-2004. Tom was a good friend and the best all purpose engineer I have ever known or will ever know. We spent a lot of time together in the 70s because we worked as long as 26 hour days. There was a lot of dead time waiting for systems to come up to the levels where we could operate a prototype engine for space power. During those dead times and during dinners with our wives and during different projects, I learned about him which I will relate now. Hopefully, I have gotten the majority of this correct but memories evolve over 4 decades.
Tom grew up on Long Island with an older sister. Tom's Dad was also in the engineering profession – he worked with refrigeration systems, I believe. His mother was a very sweet lady who I met when she moved to Phoenix after her husband's death.
As a 12 year old, Tom found a length of pipe and a ball that fit fairly tightly in the pipe. From those parts, an end piece and some propellant, Tom built a cannon and fired a solid ball at the side of his Dad's garage expecting the wooden garage wall to stop it. Unfortunately for Tom, the projectile had much more velocity than he had anticipated. It went through the wall and through at least one of the car windows before exiting the garage, hitting the roof of the house next door and taking off several shingles. He caught more than heck from his Dad. From what I remember, this was earliest exposure to ballistics and projectiles and probably engendered an interest in putting things into space. Perhaps that put Tom on the path to become and engineer. Tom went to the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn – a small but excellent school – and majored in Mechanical Engineering. He commuted from his parents' home on Long Island on the train and subway system. Since his commute was through some of the less safe parts of the city, he put bricks in his bookbag so he could wield it as a weapon. I believe he used it once to protect himself. During summers, he worked in construction in NYC refurbishing the JP Morgan building, I believe, where they were removing ancient safe doors that weighed 12 tons. One was dropped and went through several floors including the sub-basements. He made more hourly than in his first engineering job but the risks were considerably higher. After he graduated from Brooklyn Poly, he worked for Pratt&Whitney Aircraft in E. Hartford Connecticut for two years and then went on to GE in Evandale, Ohio before coming to Garrett AiResearch in Phoenix in 1968. While in Connecticut, Tom had a Sunbeam Alpine that he made race ready and he drove it at Watkins Glen. At one point, he took the engine out of his car and took it into his apartment where he rebuilt and tuned it and then, without a muffler installed, he poured some gas into the carburetor fired up the engine in his living room. That resulted in one horrendous racket. I believe he was kicked out of his apartment or at least threatened with eviction but at least he knew the engine was up to snuff. He also built a seaplane while he lived in Ohio but he sold that before moving either to Arizona.
When Tom came to Arizona for a job interview in 1968, he looked at a map of Phoenix and saw this blue channel on the map called the Salt River. Tom being an avid fisherman, packed his fishing gear hoping to do some fishing during the trip. Alas, the river was dry and Tom didn't get to fish but he did fall in love with the west. Fortunately for those of us who knew him here, he accepted a job offer and moved here with his wife, Gloria. He soon bought an F100 pick up truck and a home in Scottsdale. At some point he rescued either a retriever or setter named Red Dog who was his almost constant companion in the F100 when Tom was out doing errands. Red Dog was a bit crazy, very friendly and could be difficult to control. He was an early member of the long line of affectionate dogs that Tom had through his life.
After a few years in that home, he moved into a new home near 64th St and Cactus where the lot was large enough for horses and he went into the business of raising quarter horses. He built a barn for the horses, unfortunately, out of green lumber. Immediately, the barns began to warp itself out of shape while making a variety of groaning noises. His horses would never use the barn. After a major storm that tore off his roof and destroyed the barn, he was able to build a proper barn with the insurance money.
Red Dog had many exciting escapade at that house. He was forever getting loose after Tom and his wife had gone to work. Tom put a long rope on him so he could only travel the back yard, or so Tom thought. Tom almost had left for work one day but stopped and walked around for no good reason to the front of the house and found Red Dog had jumped the fence but was hanging from his collar at the end of the rope at the top of the fence but and fortunately he was ok. Tom put Red Dog back over the fence and shortened the rope. And thus Red Dog was saved from himself. Another time on a Sunday morning, Tom was in the front of the house and Red Dog was with him. It had rained and there were numerous puddles and muddy areas and Red Dog had walked through all of them. Tom stopped to talk with a neighbor lady who was in her Sunday Church clothes and sitting in her Mercedes. Red Dog, being ever the social animal who loved everyone, jumped in through the window onto the lady's lap. The lady, though muddy, never complained and just let Red Dog out of the car. That dog led a charmed life and he was rewarded with Tom's love and loyalty.
Tom was never much interested in the conventional, especially with respect to automobiles. At that time for his commuting car, he drove a supercharged Corvair, which, though out of favor with the general public, was a really fun car. But one had to be as discriminating as Tom to know that. The car was red at one time. By the time I saw it, the Corvair's paint was heavily oxidized. The car wasn't air conditioned so Tom always left the windows open. His attitude was that any dust storm would blow as much dust out as it blew in.
After a few years in the home near Cactus, he bought a 2 ½ acre property and built a home north of Shea on 96th street. He built, with the help of Rick Robbins, a large sucker rod corral for his horses but they almost blinded themselves with the welding using Tom's home made arc welder. Tom also built a barn. Being an engineer and having learned from his first barn build experience and also having experience with how horses damage virtually anything by leaning or kicking, Tom built the barn to end all barns structurally. It was 1200 sq ft with walls of concrete block with triple the normal rebar and all of the open space in the block filled with concrete. That barn could take a near nuclear miss. I, with some other coworkers, helped Tom roof the barn on a hot day while imbibing on a Coors or two. It was miraculous that none of us were hurt. Tom reciprocated with help on some of my projects. He helped me frame and stucco my carport conversion (and we both had the scars from the lime in the stucco to prove it) as well as installing solar collectors on the roof. He ultimately sold the house when he married Sue in late 1979 and that ended his foray into the horse breeding business.
Tom was my original mentor on closed cycle engines when I came to Garrett. There was nothing in area of science, engineering, development that he could not do nor teach himself to do. He was proficient in structural analysis, thermodynamics, heat transfer, general design both with and without computer finite element analysis. He created models of compressors and turbines based on their geometry for our analysis programs. He learned how to program in machine language and was excellent with Fortran and later Basic. He created an equation for prediction of the performance of a metallic multi-layer insulation that I helped him prove with a computer analysis showing the temperature profile of each layer. Tom's equation agreed within .001% of the computer representation. Tom could learn and operate anything. He was the lead engineer in the design, assembly and operation of our high vacuum facility for testing a power system for space. Tom operated the residual gas analyzer and the gas chromatograph among other equipment after teaching himself to use the equipment. The model he developed for mass transfer and oxidation of Niobium was proved 3 years later after continuous testing at Oak Ridge Laboratory. He as treated as an equal by the Ph.D.s at Oak Ridge, Battelle Institute, ThermoElectron, Department of Energy, NASA and the government consultants. At one meeting with NASA, our supervisor was in one meeting and Tom was in another. Our supervisor cut his meeting as short as possible thinking that Tom might need his help. When he got to the meeting, Tom had the NASA engineers convinced of his approach and really didn't need any help. By the late 70s, Tom and I became each other's alter ego. We could finish each other sentences and could each effectively critiques the others ideas and define better approaches and solutions. After a period of time, we became interchangeable on any analysis we had shared. Although Tom was my leader on most activities, he would always claim if I found an error in his work, that I was then the boss. And then we would revert back when he caught one of my errors. Tom paid me the ultimate complement in my young career when I was drafted away form Closed Cycle Engine Group to work on a compressor design. After being given a replacement contract engineer, he told his supervisor to get me back over there and working with him. And regardless of claims, Tom was always the smarter one.
We had nicknames for each other – Tom was Tashe (tashee), or Tommy, I was H, or HJ or Jimmy. We played bridge sometimes at lunchtimes and I was Hideous Hog and Tom was Rueful Rabbit. One has to play bridge to understand those.
My wife Linda and I did things socially with Tom over the decades but most frequently in the 70s and early 80s. Tom and his wife attended my marriage in 1974 and I was best man at his marriage to Sue in 1979. One time, when we were working 70 hour weeks, we all went to a restaurant call “The Other Place” on Lincoln Drive and Tom and I each ordered the whole fried chicken while our wives both ate something much more reasonable. We both proceeded to down a whole fried chicken. The waitress said she never say anyone do that before.
In the mid 70s, Tom became a Professional Engineer and was doing outside consulting in solar and mechanical systems. He convinced me to pursue that path so that we could go into the solar business. And so I also passed the test with the help of two books that Tom had lent me. We took a course on what it takes to start and run a small business, purchased materials for prototype solar collectors for water heating based on fin design and absorptive coating optimized for cost.
Unfortunately, because of the inflation rate , a fall Tom from a ladder at my house and changes in both of our personal lives we never went down that path. It would have been a wild and exciting ride. Tom remarried in 1979 to Sue and we had a son and daughter in 1981 and 1985. Tom's son Christopher was born to Sue in 1990. At the same time our career paths our social paths diverged but we always remained friends.
Tom and I worked on related projects in the late 80's and again worked together in the mid 90s on the Flight Demonstrator Engine with NASA for the Russian MIR Space station. Tom was responsible for the system performance of a solar engine that circled the earth and would provide power even while in the shadow of the earth. After that program ended, Tom and I worked together on the design of hardware using a very exotic material for a missile interceptor. Tom showed his diverse talents by doing structural analysis of key components.
From 2002 -2004 we worked again together on JIMO (Jupiter Icy Moon Orbiter Program) where Tom retrained me on the design models that we had created in the 70s. Fortunately for both myself and for Honeywell, Tom had come back from retirement to work on that project. That task was made even more interesting because each of us was providing our analysis to a competing company. Tom also had to share his working knowledge of the models with me and provide training on the use of the models which I not seen or used for 25 years. We got it done and had a lot of fun working together on space power systems.
During his long career, Tom earned several patents and was admired by anyone who ever had the pleasure of working with him. He was honest but diplomatic and never played games to advance his career. He let his abilities do the talking for him. His self-confidence showed in the many problems he solved. But he was always humble about his achievements. He influenced me in many ways. A relatively trivial way was printing instead of writing in long hand. Tom had beautiful printing and he always use a straight edge to define the bottom of his lettering. I didn't copy the straight edge, but I still print to this day. But most importantly, he taught me than any problem could be solved if broken into small enough parts.
I can remember many of the significant events in his life because Tom was so happy in relating them. The best times include meeting, dating and marrying his now deceased wife Sue, the birth of Chris, his son, Chris' academic success in the school in Utah and his success as a hockey player, his initial meeting with Dee and his marriage to Dee. With both Sue and Dee, he knew right away that they were right for him. I met Dee when Tom was in the hospital in 2005 because his blood pressure had dropped to some ridiculously low level. Bill Harper and I went to visit him one evening after work and fortunately Tom was already recovering from some misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment. It was obvious that Tom and Dee had already bonded with each other just by the way that the looked and spoke to each other. And so it would be Tom and Dee through thick and thin.
After Tom's retirement and the completion of the beautiful home that he and Dee, designed and built, we reconnected socially. It was great so see the pleasure that they took in each other's company whenever we visited or went out to dinner with Tom and Dee. And Tom got to do so much of the fishing that he loved so much.
Tom had many more than the normal bad breaks during his life. He never complained and just fought his way through them. His battle with cancer is a testimonial to that resiliency, his attitude and optimism.
It is a great honor to have worked with him and known him in all of the chapters of his life.
I had the pleasure of working with Tom on the MK50 torpedo program and worked for Tom in my first supervisory position on the Heavyweight Torpedo program back in the 80's. He was a true gentleman with a great sense of humor and professional demeanor that made all of our jobs easier. I believe Tom was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known, or probably ever will know. He was a true technical genius and just a great guy that I'm glad to have known.
I knew Tom from out time working together at Garrett/Honeywell. A better engineer and person I have yet to meet. If there is an engineering problem that needs to be solved behind those pearly gates I am sure that Tom will be the one to do it.
I didn't know Tom well. But I do know that he was kind and good, funny and generous. His face lit up an entire room each time Dee walked into it. How could you not admire a man with that much love in his heart. He was loved so much by so many - his family and an entire community. To Dee, Chris, Whitney and Renee, we send all our love. Rod and Margie Walston, Orinda, CA
It was such an honor to be able to take care of Tom. We will miss him very much. My thoughts and prayers are with Dee and the entire Ash Family.
On the few occasions I got to spend with Tom, I saw how much he added to Dee's happiness. He was a very kind, gentle man and I enjoyed all my visits to AZ to spend with him, Dee and the family. I know he will be deeply missed and my heart and thoughts go out to Dee and the family.
I so much admired Tom during my short tenure at AiResearch and he and I hit it off as friends early on. I remember when he asked Jim Lloyd and I to help him install a roof on his horse corral in north Scottsdale. It was hotter than hell, but Tom said that he always got most of his outdoor work done in the middle of summer. We paid dearly for his belief. Pounding lead-head nails into galvanized roofing on a hot summer day while drinking warm Coors beer was not my idea of a good time, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat for my friend, Tom Ashe.
There are many hearts that ache for you at this time of loss. And though no one can take away your sorrow, I hope the support of your family, friends and others helps give you the strength you need from day to day.My heart goes out to you Dee having just gone through this myself. Please forgive me for not being more involved, but I just can't at this time. I send you my deepest sympathy and love. Charlotte Martin
My deepest condolences to The Ashe family. I am so sorry for your loss, especially you, Chris-my heart breaks for you. Tom was a great guy who treated my own son like family. I am glad Tom you are no longer suffering, are with our Lord and reunited with Susan. Please give her and Kal a hug from me. RIP
I am sorry for the loss felt by all his family and friends Tom worked for me during the 70's. He was truly creative and proved to a valuable asset to our group. Tom handled computer programming and analysis and was credited with creation of some key analytical tools. He was an outstanding human being, always pleasant and helpful. I truly believe he was a genius with wide interests. He seemed to have a photographic memory. Trivia games with him were always one sided and he always won. I will always remember him fondly.-------------Ray Rackley
Tom was such an unassuming and gentle man.His cancer battle made him our medical hero. He was such a positive part of our lives. He will be missed tremendously. Continued prayers for our Dee we love you!
It was such a pleasure caring for Tom at the Cancer Center. He was a very special man, and I will never forget him. My warm thoughts to Dee and the entire family.
I am so sorry for the loss of your dear loved one. Soon Jesus will abolish death forever (1 Cor. 15:26). Until then, may the God of comfort be with you in your time of need. Although you don't know me I was moved to share a comforting scripture.
We were sad to hear about Toms passing. Although we didn't know him well ,we as neighbors always enjoyed meeting Tom and Dee on our dog walks
I worked with Tom during the 70's when I supported the Brayton Cycle Group and later into the 90's for the Fluid Systems Under Sea endeavors. But I got to know Tom the best when we were in a 5-person car pool in the 70's during our country's earliest gas crisis. I remember Tom as a humble, kind and very capable gentleman who added much to my life experiences. I offer my concordances to Tom's family for our loss.
I feel blessed and proud to have known Tom even for a short time through church and the cancer support group. He will be greatly missed and my prayers are with Dee and Family. May he now rest in peace.
We greatly appreciate being able to come to the Cancer Support Group that Tom and Dee started. With their help it has become easier to accept our problen with cancer when we could see Dee and Tom and their wonderful attitude. We will miss Tom so much.
Tom and Jean Brannan (Gold Canyon)
Tom was a great inspiration to everyone in the cancer support group. We were all blessed to have known him - and Dee! My thoughts and prayers are with your family at this most difficult time of loss.
Tom was a loving and caring father, husband and gentle soul. May we all remember the good times in his life.
Tom was a wonderful Christian man in every sense of the word. He was a gentle man who was extremely talented and loved life. He accomplished a great deal in his life. It was a pleasure knowing him and working with him at Honeywell. He will be missed but not forgotten.
Tom had a wonderful sense of humor and I enjoyed being around him and Dee at the cancer support group at Gold Canyon UMC. He will certainly be missed by many.
Tom was a very warm and gentle man. Al & I are glad we had a chance to vist with him at his birthday party last October. Rest in peace..and God Bless the family and friends you leave behind. You will be missed.
Al & Susan Cooper (Gold Canyon, AZ)
My friend and colleague, you will be missed.
Peace and tight lines.
Tom was a good friend and the best all purpose engineer I have ever known or will ever know. Tom was my original mentor on closed cycle engines when I came to Garrett in 1971. He could do structural analysis, thermodynamics, heat transfer, general design both with and without computer finite element analysis. He learned how to program in machine language and was excellent with Fortran. Tom could create closed form solutions for many exotic problems; for example, mass transport with oxidation, heat transfer through multiple radiation shields. Tom could learn anything. With BIPS, he was the lead engineer in the design and assembly of our high vacuum facility. Tom operated the residual gas analyzer and the gas chromatograph among other equipment after teaching himself to use the equipment. The model he developed for mass transfer and oxidation of Niobium was proved 3 years later after continuous testing at Oak Ridge Laboratory. He as treated as an equal by the Ph.Ds at Oak Ridge, Battelle Institute, Department of Energy and government consultants. He taught those guys a thing or two. He developed and exotic burner for a closed cycle engine and the control system. Later he was a major contributor to the Heavyweight Torpedo engine. Subsequently, he worked closed cycle engines in Tempe including both the solar Flight Test Demonstrator and Jupiter Icy Moon Orbiter program. He did some of the structural finite analysis for exotic valves on the first flight version of the SM-3 missile interceptor. He was also a professional engineer and consultant on solar systems and mechanical systems in the late 70s and into the 80s. I spent a lot of time with Tom on BIPS because we worked as long as 26 hour days. There was a lot of dead time waiting for systems to come up to the levels where we could operate the engine. So I learned about him and we found we had much in common. Tom had a Sunbeam Alpine when he was single. He raced it at Watkins Glen. I believe he was kicked out of his apartment when he fired up the engine in his living room. He also built a seaplane that he sold upon moving. We did things socially with Tom over the decades but most frequently in the 70s. Tom was the reason I got a Professional Engineer's license because we almost went into the solar business around 1980. Tom had optimized the fin design of the solar heater collector and was in the process of optimizing the rest of the collector for cost. Between the inflation rate and changes in both of our personal life we never went down that path. Linda and I enjoyed our visits with Tom and Dee at their beautiful home in Gold Canyon. Fantastic views from the home was another product of Tom's design ability. Tom and Dee were always very gracious and we always had a good time. It is a great honor to have worked with him and known him in so many different ways. He will be greatly missed.
I didn't know Tom well...only in passing occasionally with Dee at the church. And yet, thru Dee I always felt connected to this wonderful man thru conversations we had about him. Dee, you are in my thoughts and prayers, sweet lady.
"Tom has been a wonderful example of a man devoted to his family, his church and his cancer group. We will miss him and always remember his friendly smile, warm hugs and kind words. Rick and Sue Sutter."
It was a pleasure knowing you Tom.
Rest in peace
Tom was a very intelligent , sweet, and funny guy! He was very supportive to all of us in our church cancer group. Tom and his wife Dee are beautiful people inside and out. I will miss Tom but I am thankful that he is not suffering anymore.
We were so thankful to visit with Tom on the day before he died. We commented on how well he looked that day and he was able to talk to us. He was prepared and we were so glad that he is in peace with his lord and savior. He was and important part of our life here in Arizona and we will miss him and that friendly smile.. Gordon and Patty Truckle
It was such a pleasure to know Tom and Dee through the Gold Canyon UMC Cancer Support Group these past 5 years that they founded and devoted so much time to support all of us cancer survivors. Our brother Tom lost his courageous battle with cancer, but has left us all with his spirit of hope and love. We will miss this gentle giant of a man. Rest in peace, dear friend.
Tom was an inspiration to all who knew him. We are glad for his heavenly peace but will miss him so much.
Peggy and Steve Kinder
I have very fond memories of Tom in my early adulthood. He was always a very kind and gentle to me. May he rest in peace.
I have not been close to Tom since his sister Norma (my wife) passed away twenty years ago. Prior to that we saw each other infrequently due to distance but when I saw him he was always cheerful and positive. He never complained about his problems . I am sorry for his passing and offer my condolences to his wife Dee and his son Christopher. I will not be at the ceremony on Monday as prior plans have guests arriving at our home in Florida then. Ken Weiss