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Published: Tuesday, 6/29/2010

Ex-Blade cartoonist had distinctive style

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MILAN, Ohio - Edward J. Ashley, editorial cartoonist of The Blade in the 1970s and early '80s whose distinctive style combined humor, commentary, and humanity, died Saturday in his home. He was 88.

The family did not report the cause of death.

Mr. Ashley's cartoons often were about topics of the day: gasoline prices, Soviet-U.S. relations, and politics local and national.

One cartoon shows a capsule from a NASA Apollo mission awaiting retrieval in the ocean, buffeted by waves labeled, "unemployment," "fear," "crime," "hate," "poverty," and "war." An astronaut peers forlornly at what's outside his window and says, "We're home."

His cartoons also could be self-referential. A cartoon after President Nixon's resignation shows the artist at work, a caricature of Mr. Nixon on the drawing board, a dart-festooned poster of Mr. Nixon on the wall, and Mr. Nixon walking away from the artist into a room labeled "political oblivion." The caption: "Come to think of it, there goes one of the best friends a cartoonist ever had."

A gag for several Christmases running was the artist's struggle to find original ways to say "Merry Christmas." Another cartoon shows a man and woman at the breakfast table. The man, holding an open newspaper, says, "It's Easter all right. The editorial cartoonist just laid another egg."

"He was a great guy and one of the best cartoonists," said Kirk Walters, who succeeded Mr. Ashley in 1985 and remains in that position. "He was one of those cartoonists whose work stood out because it was so original."

Mr. Ashley stuck to the basics.

"When you read his cartoons, you knew the point he was getting at right away," Mr. Walters said. "You weren't sidetracked by a lot of details."

Ralph Johnson, retired Blade editorial director, said: "He had a very zany sense of humor. I thought they were some of the funniest cartoons in the world."

Mr. Ashley retired after working through the late 1980s in The Blade's marketing department, where he did advertising layouts and artwork.

"He was a prankster and had a lot of stories to tell and always made the day interesting," said Lynne Rup-

ley, a graphic artist in the department who worked with Mr. Ashley. "He was quite a character, a unique guy and had such a twist at how he looked at the world - which is why he was a wonderful editorial cartoonist."

He still drew cartoons, sometimes for or about his marketing colleagues. His funniest were about his favorite obscure obsession, Albania.

Mr. Ashley was born May, 5, 1922, in Milan, Ohio. He began cartooning on the back of tablets in grade school and did some cartooning in the high school paper, he told then-Blade staff writer Seymour Rothman for a 1975 Sunday Magazine profile.

He studied chemical engineering at the University of Toledo, but was drafted and served in the Army Air Force. He was stationed at Clovis air base in New Mexico and contributed cartoons to the base newsletter.

After the war, he was hired as a commercial artist in the advertising department of The Blade, where he met his wife, Audrey, also on staff. She later wrote and illustrated children's books.

He decided to get formal training and went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, from which he received a bachelor's degree in fine arts and illustration.

After a brief return to Toledo, the Ashleys moved to Denver, where Mr. Ashley worked in a photo studio, in an ad agency, and as a commercial artist for a newspaper.

The couple returned to Toledo because family was in the area. He was hired in 1969 as a summer replacement in The Blade public service department and, by fall, was a full-time employee.

The Blade was without a local political cartoonist in the early 1970s and ran occasional contributions from members of its art staffs.

The editorial writers one day noticed a particularly dramatic cartoon signed "E.A." that had been pushed under their office door. It was traced back to Mr. Ashley, and cartoons continued to appear. When it became clear that he could sustain a high level of production, according to the 1975 magazine article, he was made editorial cartoonist.

His wife, Audrey Zinser Ashley, died April 14, 2008.

Survivors include his sister, Mary Ashley.

There will be no visitation. Graveside services will be private. Arrangements are by the Walker Funeral Home, Norwalk, Ohio.

The family suggests tributes to the Huron County Humane Society, Norwalk.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6182.



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