Brother Joseph William Ash, CSC

September 13, 1942 – January 30, 2020

Brother Joseph William AshThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Joseph William Ash, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in New York, New York, Br. Joseph died at St. Joseph Center, Valatie, New York, on January 30, 2020. He was in his 59th year of religious life in the Congregation.

Brother Joseph William Ash, a member of the Moreau Province, was born in New York, New York, on September 13, 1942, the older of two sons of Joseph Ash, a bus driver, and Helen Carroll, a switchboard operator. Young Joseph spent most of his early life as a resident of the Bronx. He was baptized in early October 1942 at St. John Parish and later confirmed in May of 1951 at the same church.

Joseph attended public schools in the Bronx and upon graduation from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1960, he weighed the options of working with a relative in California or seeking a career with the US Army or the New York State police. When he told his mother that he wanted to do something with his life, she encouraged him to seek advice from the parish priest. After a few visits with his pastor, Joseph was guided to the vocation of the Brothers. In June of 1960 he became a candidate for the Brothers of Holy Cross at St. Joseph Juniorate in Valatie, New York. He entered the novitiate there on August 22, 1960 and made his first vows a year and a day later on August 23, 1961. He made his perpetual profession of vows on August 23, 1964.

Brother Joseph William AshBrother Joseph spent nearly fifteen years as a cook and food service director in various formation houses, community houses, and schools throughout the province. In the process, he also earned a business diploma in 1967 from Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York.

Later he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in May of 1979 from Stonehill College. Brother Joseph served his Brothers and those in formation at Valatie from 1961 through 1970 except for a year he spent as a cook at Cardinal Mooney High School in Rochester, New York. He moved to Flushing where he cooked for a year at Holy Cross High School before venturing to Rome and Notre Dame International School as a prefect. He returned to the United States as Food Service Director at Pius XII School in Chester, New York for a year before serving (as a cook) at Moreau Hall, the scholasticate at Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts. While there he began the completion of his undergraduate studies at Stonehill College.

In 1979, Brother Joseph began a 36 year career as a teacher at St. Edmond’s Academy in Wilmington, Delaware. He also served there many years as the director of the local community of Brothers. In August 2016, he retired and returned to St. Joseph Center in Valatie, New York.

In 1985 on the occasion of his 25th anniversary of profession, Brother Joseph was praised in a letter from his Provincial, Brother Paul Rahaim: “Your influence on others has always been a very positive one. Your care and understanding of young religious in houses of formation and of other fellow religious as well as your present ministry to young boys at St. Edmond’s has always been obvious.”

Over his years of service to Holy Cross men in formation, Brother Joseph was a faithful witness to religious life and would kindly overlook the various missteps and follies of candidates and novices. In his kitchen in Valatie, he concocted an amazing variety of ways to serve the apples harvested from the orchard. His Sunday morning cinnamon rolls were a special, inimitable treat.

Though raised in the Bronx, Brother Joseph had a lifelong love affair with horses. At several places over the years, he befriended local horse owners and volunteered his time to care for them and ride them. He even brought pressure to bear on the Provincial to invest in purchasing several horses “for the Province” since there were barns and stables already at Valatie. Unfortunately, it seems the provincial was not as soft-hearted as Brother Joseph, and the closest he got were five small horses, albeit beautifully rendered in plastic and bought at Target.

Brother Joseph’s commitment to religious life, his genuine interest and concern for others and his sense of fairness enabled him to serve his Brothers well as the director of his local community. In later years, he was not only the community director, but the cook as well, and an excellent one at that. He would greet special guests with homemade apple and raspberry turnovers!

Brother Joseph William AshAt St. Edmond’s Academy, Brother Joseph headed the Religion Department and for some years was the Dean of Discipline. He helped chaperon more than 30 trips to Disney World and over the years was a confirmation sponsor for over 100 boys. He had a heart of gold and would put on the “stern regard” of the disciplinarian, which really wasn’t all that convincing. Students knew that barely hidden behind it was kindness and care. He would restore order and be successful, more perhaps because of the high regard, respect, esteem and love in which he was held by the students. They did as he wished, not wanting to disappoint him. He was generous with his time, volunteering for over twenty years on a suicide prevention hotline.

Testifying to his lasting influence on their lives, one of his students wrote: “I never had a dad. You taught me how to be a man. You taught me in 7th and 8th grade. It was later down the road when I really needed help that your words and actions were there to guide me. You taught me about respect and honesty and living the right way.”

Another student described Brother Joseph as kind, cheerful, selfless, and down to earth, teaching by example, never saying anything disparaging. “He challenged students to be their best, not only to be men but gentlemen.”

Students took to heart the words Brother Joseph often quoted from St. Francis de Sales: “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”

This past year, Brother Joseph dealt with a number of increasingly serious health challenges necessitating multiple hospitalizations and diagnostic tests, but never attaining stabilization. He chose to return to St. Joseph Center to receive comfort care and passed to his eternal reward on January 30, 2020. May he rest in peace.

Funeral services for Br. Joseph William Ash, CSC were held at the chapel of St. Joseph Center, Valatie, New York:

The Wake Service was held at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, February 7, 2020.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 8, 2020, followed by interment at St. Joseph Center cemetery.

Our Brother Joseph now rests in peace in our God’s loving embrace!

Ave Crux, Spes Unica.

Until We Meet Again

Brother Joseph William AshImagine, if you will, an old time western town of wooden buildings and sidewalks bordering dry dirt streets and surrounded by large cattle ranches. On the wooden porch of the music hall we hear beautiful lyrics from a new sweet singer named Dolly Parton.

Seated on a rocking chair outside we find Bro. Joseph in his usual cowhand garb of black hat, dark red tasseled shirt, brown vest, belted and buckled jeans, and snake skin boots. Tied at the hitching post is his saddled red stallion, G M.

It is there that you find Joe and me in a conversation that stirs up memories of his life… Memories of being born and growing up in a Bronx borough second floor apartment of a five storied building…of attending public school and sometimes visiting the principal’s office…of hanging out with friends…of swimming in the Bronx River once in a while…of getting into scrapes with the gang and coming home so bruised that mom starts cleaning you up while dad asks, “Did you win?”

The memories continue and we learn that it was as a student in DeWitt Clinton High School that God called Joe to Holy Cross where he joined in the juniorate and novitiate programs at Valatie, NY. He enjoyed the farm work, but working in the kitchen so intrigued him that after first profession of vows he remained there to improve his culinary art while teaching novices how to prepare meals. At the same time he was attending various classes in order to teach catechism to area students.

Our western scene continues as I take the lead in the conversation telling Joe that it was in 1962 that we first met when he cooked meals for my group’s final profession with our hundreds of guests. I remind him that it was after his own final vows that he acquired a horse, G M, to ride around while acting as chaplain to the local fire department. Joe and G M separated when he was sent to cook first to Rochester followed by Flushing, and Chester, NY. His saddle went with him…just in case a hope would be realized.

Brother Joseph William AshHis desire to teach about God led him to take more religion and counseling classes at Stonehill College. Afterwards, Joe was asked to teach 7th and 8th grade religion at Saint Edmond’s Academy in 1979 where his 7th grade homeroom pleaded with him for a trip to Disney World. This started a famous annual tradition with many memories created for so many. Meanwhile he was teaching Love: love of God, love of family, love of neighbor, love of self, love of country.

Somehow as 7th grade homeroom teachers he and I acquired an alternating routine of correcting our lads loudly enough so that once started in one homeroom, the other 7th grade homeroom would settle down until it was their turn for correction. What a system! Or was it rivalry?

Joe, your Santa suit allowed you to be at many places during the Christmas season. Then there were your over 200 Confirmation sponsorships.

You were among the first to qualify modern electronics’ artificial intelligence that entertained students hearing you say, “This dumb computer! This dumb TV! This dumb phone!” Your homeroom would delay dismissals saying, “We want to see you throw it out the window.”

Your “Egg Project” assignments had many a 7th grader caring for those eggs as if they were their own children. The annual Spaghetti Night dinners were still a hit, even though you were no longer there to make the pasta and desserts.

Brother Joseph William AshI recall the “Contact” emergency help phone line and how another Brother at the house convinced you to join him in becoming counselors to answer the help phones and how he bowed out after the first class leaving you to continue the training. How many a Friday night you spent answering the phone there and talking to desperate callers some of whom were considering suicide and how you got rescue help while still on the line! And how many a long drive to unwind followed your shift? Your cross country trips west to visit your mom were also therapeutic. All the while you were taking on the responsibilities as Director of our house along with its finances and shopping and in the later years cooking for us. You had a lot of weight to carry on your shoulders. Gardening relaxed you and time in the sun at the pool.

The time has come, Joe, cowboy, partner, friend, and brother, to leave the music hall porch rocking chair and unhitch G M, now a rider-less horse who will lead us to Boot Hill.

But I would like to sing with you your Roy Rogers & Dale Evans song:


Some trails are happy ones
Others are blue
It’s the way you ride the trail that counts
Here’s a happy one for you

(Riders of the Purple Sage and Sons of the Pioneers)

Finally, there are among us here who remember your parting words which are on the wall of the SEA resale shop: Remember God loves you, and for some reason, so do I.

Would you join in applause for the celebration of the life of Brother Joseph Ash.

Eulogy delivered by Br. Thomas Meany, CSC
St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
February 8, 2020

Brother Joseph William Ash, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1961-1961 Food Service Director, St. Joseph Juniorate, Valatie, NY
  • 1962-1963 Food Service Director, Cardinal Mooney HS, Rochester, NY
  • 1963-1964 Food Service Director, St. Joseph Juniorate, Valatie, NY
  • 1964-1970 Food Service Director, St. Joseph Novitiate, Valatie, NY
  • 1970-1971 Food Service Director, Holy Cross High School, Flushing, NY
  • 1971-1973 Prefect, Notre Dame International, Rome, Italy
  • 1974-1975 Food Service Director, Pius XII, Chester, NY
  • 1975-1977 Food Service Director, Moreau Hall, N. Easton, MA
  • 1977-1979 Student, Stonehill College, N. Easton, MA
  • 1979-2016 Teacher/Local Director, St. Edmond’s Academy Wilmington, DE
  • 2016-2020 Resident, St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY

Brother Joseph William AshBrother Joseph William Ash