Remembering Dunstable’s oldest resident Olive Ashley

Olive Ashley in her salvation army uniform
Olive Ashley in her salvation army uniform

The family of Dunstable’s oldest resident Olive Ashley have paid tribute to her following her death last month at the age of 109.

The 15th oldest person in the UK at the time of her death, the Gazette has covered many of the keen Salvation Army member’s birthdays since she turned 100.

Family member Peter Smither said: “She was lovely, a very generous and straightforward woman with a gentle disposition”.

His wife Judy added: “One of her most important things in life was her faith in the Lord. She loved music and she was always thinking about other people.”

The follow information comes courtesy of Olive’s niece and nephew, Carol Lewry and Rev Derek Punchard.

> Olive Ethel Ashley was born on September 16, 1906, in Tottenham, North London. She was the oldest of seven surviving children of William Thomas Ashley and Ethel Ruth Ashley.

Music played a big part in the family. Her grandfather Robert Stather was an organ and piano manufacturer. Two pianos remain within the family and an organ is at Milton Keynes museum.

From an early age she attended West Green Baptist Church in London, she played piano and taught Sunday school there from the age of 16 until she was 70!

Olive was the owner of a florist shop in West Green for over 40 years from 1933, and she supplied bouquets for weddings of her siblings and several other generations of family. She travelled to many places across the world.

The most important part of Olive’s life was her faith. She cared for her mother for ten years after her father died. In 1979, she moved from London to Dunstable where she joined the Salvation Army, who welcomed her warmly.

At 109 she lived longer than any others in the family, although her grandmother lived to 104 and her sister Nellie was 103 when she died.

Olive will be missed greatly as she became the heart and hub of the family. She always wanted to know how people were and what they were doing. Her generosity was evident to the end.

She is survived by a sister-in-law, cousins, many nephews and nieces right down to one great great great niece named Ashley!

When she was no longer able to see, she coped without TV or walking along the road but missed being able to play the piano in church and reading the Bible, her source of inspiration and guidance. In visits made to her, she most appreciated the reading of the Bible and prayer.

Her memory was phenomenal and she had the ability to recall the names of many nephews and nieces to the fourth generation, as well as details of her life going back over a hundred years.

She was often asked for the secret to a long and happy life, and made it clear that her life was defined by her knowledge of God and faith in Him. Her advice to future generations? ‘Tell the truth and the best thing is to trust the Lord Jesus – He will always be there to guide you’.

She will be greatly missed by all who knew her well.

Olive Ashley, born September 16 1906, died May 26 2016.

>Olive’s funeral takes place on Friday, June 24 at 2.30pm at Dunstable Salvation Army headquarters on Bullpond Lane, Dunstable. Flowers by family only, with any donations to the Salvation Army.