BEDFORD - Lynn Ashe never thought she'd get married or move to an area like Bedford County or be busier in her retirement than she was in her 26 years with the CIA. She's done it all, however.
The Michigan native, 70, sees her impact every day in Bedford County, through her work with the Southern Alleghenies Chapter of the American Red Cross disaster team, as a volunteer with the Home Nursing Agency's hospice program, the Everett Food Pantry, the Bedford County Arts Council, the Bedford County Regional Educational Foundation, Your Safe Haven and the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce - just to name a few.
"In a small community, the needs are more visible," Ashe said. "The threads of our lives interweave in all sorts of ways in a small town. You know if what you're doing is making a difference."
When Ashe and her husband, Craig, moved to the area 20 years ago to begin an early retirement, it took about "an hour and a half" before they started getting involved in their community, Ashe said with a laugh.
"We had time and energy to do anything that captured our hearts and imagination," she said.
They had both worked hard in federal jobs - he as a Secret Service agent and she in the CIA - when they started making a big impact in the little towns that surrounded them.
THE ASHE FILE
Name: Lynn Ashe
Hometown: Originally from Michigan, Ashe lived in Virginia before moving to the Breezewood area 20 years ago.
Employment: Ashe was employed by the CIA for 26 years and traveled to Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia.
Education: Bachelor's degree in psychology from Wayne State University, Detroit, Mich.
Interests and hobbies: Photography, reading, writing, traveling, sewing and walking
After one of her best friends passed away, Ashe said she realized she didn't know how to help her in her last days.
"I didn't want to be in that position again," Ashe said of her decision to volunteer in hospice care, preparing patients with terminal illnesses and their families.
Never one to settle, Ashe's big dream is a hospice home in Bedford County to provide even more support for those who need it.
Ashe carries the memories of families she's helped and breakthroughs she's seen on her sleeve.
After a fire in the Saxton area several years ago, the Red Cross volunteer was overwhelmed when the owner of a destroyed house asked the fire company how much he owed them.
"That always chokes me up," she said, her voice cracking, with her hand to her chest. "You have to love the people. You want to help them."
Joanne Leeds, Red Cross administrator for Bedford County, said Ashe is one of the longest-serving and hardest-working people with the agency.
"She's got a very big heart," Leeds said. "She's always there when we need her, and she's always very sympathetic with the clients."
Your Safe Haven Executive Director Jeannee Mallow calls Ashe "a little dynamite."
"She's a woman with such a big heart," Mallow said, adding that Ashe's sense of humor brings a needed lightness to board meetings for the organization, which can deal with serious matters such as domestic violence and sexual assault.
"Not only is she a good leader on our board, but she makes sure the board takes care of the staff. She does so much for the people here in our county. We just love her."
People in Bedford County have big hearts and take care of one another, Ashe said.
"They take care of me," she said, adding that that has become more evident since her husband's death five years ago.
As important as the stories and memories she recalls from her 20 years as a dedicated community member are, so are the little things in life - like her morning walks to enjoy familiar smells, feel the sun and, she adds with a smile, take the hay out of a neighbor's horse's eyebrows.
The best thing she's done, she said, is marry her husband.
"Craig was really something," she said.
Time and energy often keep people from getting more involved in their communities, Ashe said.
"The people who have the energy don't have the time and the people who have the time don't have the energy," she said.
Or they think they don't know enough. You don't have to know everything to help out, Ashe said.
"They just have to know where to get answers."
Mirror Staff Writer Wendy Zook is at 946-7520.