Central Loses a Valued Historian

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By Mia Freneaux
    Cheryl “Mickey” Ashford passed away Saturday, December 3 after suffering a stroke the day after her 61st birthday.   In her too-short life, Mickey touched the lives of many people far and near.
    Mickey’s father died when she was 16 years old, leaving her to care for her mother, who had Multiple Sclerosis.  She learned to cook at the age of 6 with her mother in a wheelchair nearby instructing her.  “All I know is to cook and clean and take care of people,” she once told her good friend and neighbor Beverly Langlois.  Mickey cared for her mother until she passed away in her 80’s. 
    Mickey’s big heart didn’t just lead her to care for family.  After Hurricane Gustav, she saw electricians from Alabama working to repair power lines near her home.  She knew she had to do something for them, because they were “somebody’s son, father, or brother.”  Mickey invited the whole crew to her house for lunch, and greeted 12-13 of them with a homecooked meal, cooked with a generator’s power because there was no electricity!  The next day, she told her church, Sandy Creek Baptist, and used the money they collected to feed 25 more.  The third day, she discovered that many of the men had been moved to new locations. She hunted them down, and delivered 50 meals that day with the help of her husband Roy and Beverly.  Many of those men wrote to her every Christmas, never forgetting her hospitality.
    Mickey also had a respect for the deceased that drove her to photograph all of the tombstones she could find between south Louisiana and south Mississippi and preserve them in albums, albums which many historical societies have used in genealogy projects.   Her good friend Joanna Jackson remembered wading through 3 foot grass to reach a cemetery, then being roped in to helping Mickey clean off debris from long-neglected graves.  Beverly said, “I don’t know how she found some of those places, she must have known every cemetery in the south!”  Jeanne Mixson, branch manager of the Pride-Chaneyville Library, shared, “Mickey spent countless hours at the library researching, collecting, and photocopying materials to include in the Library’s Community History Collection.  She had a passion for preserving family and community history.  She was a driving force in the organization of Community History Day.”  Vicki Carney, president of the Central History Club, stated, “Local history enthusiasts have lost a powerful advocate.  The historical preservation work that Mickey researched will stay with our community forever.”
    “She was so small, we called her ‘Mickey Mouse’,” Beverly shared, “She was so full of life and fast, it was always go, go, go with her.”  Mickey would visit her sister in law in the nursing home every Sunday, while there, she would insist on visiting anyone who had no family.   She would feed them and make them comfortable.  “She taught us how to take care of old folks,” Joanna shared.  Mickey would also prepare plates of food left over from church dinners and deliver them to all the shut-ins in the church.
    From her beautiful flower arrangements that she freely gave her friends, to the help she gave to those who couldn’t do for themselves, to the many meals she prepared for the sick and needy, Mickey’s love for humanity glowed in everything she did.  Jeanne said, “She was one of the most loving and giving persons I’ve ever had the privilege to know.  We will all miss her.”  “She touched my life,” Joanna said with a smile.  “There will never be another like her,” Beverly agreed.

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