Dennis Ashton was many things to me. First he was my partner in the practice of pediatrics. Much like being a parent, being a pediatrician is one of the best and one of the most consuming jobs you can have. Another role he played in my life was being a dear friend. I even came to think of him much like a brother. However, most importantly, Dennis was, and will always be, one of my heroes.
It seems that our society is always looking for heroes. We want to be inspired. We want to think we too can overcome adversity and succeed, and yes, we want to remain a decent person in the process. It also seems that many of the people we choose as heroes are constantly disappointing us. Maybe part of the problem is that we choose the wrong people. Dennis Ashton never disappointed me.
When I started out as a new doctor at Willow Creek Pediatrics, Dennis was one of my two mentors. I learned a lot from him, not just about how to be a good doctor, but also how to be a good human being. Although Dennis was not large in physical stature, he was a giant in moral and professional stature. Certainly he was medically knowledgeable, but more importantly, he had a rare gift of wisdom which made him an incredibly thoughtful leader. No one could stay as calm in a crisis or think as clearly as Dennis was able to do.
Dennis genuinely cared about all of the patients that he saw. He was the ultimate team player for the benefit of the families in our practice. He was always the first to the office and the last to leave. If other doctors were taking time off, he would stay later to see extra patients or he would come in for a while on his day off so no parent that needed to have their child seen that day would be turned away.
Dennis was one of the toughest people I have ever met. His mental strength and physical endurance were of the standard you would associate with a high level athlete. Certainly those are some of the reasons that he lived for so many years after having been diagnosed with a cancer that is usually rapidly overwhelming. If anyone ever “fought the good fight”, it was Dennis.
However, it is not just Dennis that is my hero; it is also his incredible wife, Joan, and in fact, I can include his entire family. They are famous for an unwaveringly positive attitude and the uncanny ability to keep a sense of humor even in the face of turmoil. The Ashtons have always been able to bring a spiritual, mental and physical strength to life because it is just part of the basic fabric of who they are.
Someone mentioned to me that it was a gift to live as long as Dennis did. I agree, but the gift was not just to Dennis and his family, it was a gift to everyone that ever knew him. He was an inspiration to all of us. Dennis Ashton will forever remain one my heroes. I think I chose well.
From Dr Kathy O'Mara
Dennis was a powerful example to me as my senior partner in pediatrics. He welcomed me into Willowcreek Pediatrics with open arms and treated me as an equal from the day I started 12 years ago. He was dedicated to his patients and his staff. He treated everyone he met with dignity and respect. In all the years I knew him, no matter how busy, stressed or sick, I never saw him angry.
He was a quiet man but his soft spoken words carried power. When we would all be in a tizzy about some “major issue” in our practice, we would sit in a meeting and all would gnash their teeth and finish ranting. Dennis would sit silently till we stopped, say two or three coherent sentences that were an obviously reasonable solution and we’d all stop and say, “Well, OK then”. He was a great leader and I miss that. We are all still gnashing and ranting…………His fight against cancer was unbelievable. He was always positive and had a go get ‘em attitude. This was in part because of the incredible Ashton Clot, Joanie, Brodi and Erin (and families) who all seem to be made of the same fabric. They were all dealt a terrible hand and played it with grace, dignity and humor. The humor was the salient feature.
After his first round of chemo, radiation and surgery, my husband, Doug and I wanted to do something in his name to raise money to fight this horrible disease. In 2008 we rode LOTOJA in his name and have continued that tradition – I hope that the Huntsman has gotten a little closer to a cure for this terrible affliction. Rest and Relax Dennis, you deserve it!
Lots of love,
From Dr Steve Lynch--
Dennis Ashton was not only the founder of Willow Creek Pediatrics, and a leader within our practice, but he was unquestionably the heart and soul of Willow Creek.
Despite his quiet demeanor, he commanded respect, and he had an unparalleled ability to see and understand both sides of any issue.
Dennis exemplified all that we should strive for as pediatricians, in offering both care and compassion to our patients and their families. He embodied so many more key attributes: concern, thoughtfulness, patience, and selflessness readily come to mind.
He was unruffled, and never appeared rushed or stressed. More than anyone, he made extra time for the patients of Willow Creek, staying late when the need arose. Never being asked, always stepping forward, leading by example … and always appreciated.
Dennis was a great partner, and a better person.
While fighting through illness in recent years, he was truly inspirational, displaying uncommon grace and dignity each day.
It was a privilege to work with Dennis, to share that first hallway, and to be considered a partner with him. He has influenced me in so many ways. I am a richer person for having known him.
I miss Dennis, and yet he lives on - his lessons, his insights, his approach to patients and families - within me and within all of us, each and every day.
I would like to honor him, for few would be more deserving, by keeping him in my presence each day, and during each patient visit, at Willow Creek Pediatrics.
"Bad things happen to the best people" certainly applies to Dennis, who was one of the kindest, most soft-spoken and humble people I have ever known. He was a compassionate partner, friend and doctor, and he is going to me missed by so many because he has had such a positive impact on so many people. He taught us all so much about not only living life, but also about dying with courage and strength. He always put others' needs before his own, and now it is his turn to rest in peace, hopefully knowing what an incredible person he was in this life.
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