Kathy Ashton-Miller

Kathy Ashton-Miller

(nee Moe) passed away

peacefully at home in

Ann Arbor on January 15,

2021 at the age of 75 years

following an aggressive

brain cancer.

Kathy was born to

Donald O. and Helen E.

Moe of Minot, North

Dakota. Her father was a

WW2 Army pilot and fly-

ing instructor who flew

the “hump,” supplying

the Chinese resistance

from northern India

through the Himalayas in

good and bad weather.

After the war he became a

successful Dodge Chrysler

Plymouth dealer in Minot.

Her mother was a

homemaker and skilled

cook, assisted with the

business, used her beauti-

ful voice in a trio and sub-

scribed to the adage “Live

well while you’re living.”

Kathy received her K-12

education in the Minot

schools and often helped

her Dad by greeting custo-

mers in his showroom. A

highlight was travelling

by train all the way to

Florida so she could hear

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

speak and meet him per-

sonally. While in school,

Kathy took classical ballet

for many years during

which she discovered her

love of teaching younger

students. She took a BA in

education, with a minor

in French, at Wilson Col-

lege in PA. While at Wil-

son, she signed up for

Operation Crossroads

Africa to spend a summer

building a school in Chad,

in the French speaking

sub-Sahara, using

sun-dried mud bricks.

In 1967, she was ac-

cepted into Teacher Corps

and a two year M.Ed. pro-

gram at the University of

Missouri where she be-

came a K-12 teacher and

reading specialist. She

lived and taught in a poor

neighborhood of inner

Kansas City. The school

had little paper and no

pencils for the children

so, ever resourceful,

Kathy called an executive

at the nearby Hallmark

Cards headquarters. The

next day, a truck backed

up to the school with a

year’s worth of supplies

for every child in every

class. Her first teaching

job in 1969 was at the E.B.

Newton School in

Winthrop, MA, just north

of the river from Logan

Airport in Boston. Her

classroom was the entire

top floor of the school in-

cluding a full size theater

stage, but the downside

was that all conversation

had to stop whenever a jet

took off, which was often.

Her next teaching job was

at Angier School in New-

ton, MA, where Dr. Ro-

land S. Barth, on his way

to becoming a national

leader in education, had

become principal after

taking a sabbatical from

the Harvard Education

School. In 1975, she mar-

ried James Ashton-Miller,

an M.I.T. graduate student

from Bristol, England. The

wedding was in Minot,

North Dakota, after which

they left for Oslo, Norway

where James obtained a

fellowship to study spine

biomechanics. To support

the family, Kathy took a

job teaching at the U.S.

Department of Defense

Oslo American School in

Bekkestua, while James

completed his doctoral

degree. Kathy bore their

first child, Ian, in 1977. In

1980, they moved to

Evanston, IL where Kathy

bore their second child,

Lindsay, and worked as

an educational consultant

at the Kohl Teaching

Center in Winnetka, IL. In

1983, she moved with her

family to Ann Arbor when

James took a faculty posi-

tion at the University of

Michigan in mechanical

engineering. Kathy

worked as a Lecturer and

University Supervisor for

Eastern Michigan Univer-

sity, interspersed by short

stints at the University of

Michigan, supervising

over 1,000 student teach-

ers until she was forced to

retire by brain cancer in

October 2020. She in-

stilled in them the need to

become lifelong learners

themselves in order to

continually improve their

teaching skills. They were

expected to recognize the

strengths and weaknesses

in every child and, ir-

respective of ethnicity,

background or economic

status, to foster the skills

that each child needed in

order to reach their full

potential. Kathy drew

people in as they were

drawn to her. In keeping

with the exceptional

teacher she was, she

listened carefully, en-

gaged fully, and brought

out the best attributes of

those with whom she in-

teracted. She could recall

their family members’

names and interests to the

very end. This aptitude

was so marked that her

neighbors nicknamed her

the “Mayor of Iroquois”

(Place), the street on

which she lived for 37

years, because she was al-

ways so well informed

and genuinely interested.

Recently, when she first

came home from the hos-

pital after her biopsy, her

car was followed down

the street by a gaggle of

children exclaiming

“Kathy’s back, Kathy’s

back” as they crowded

around the car to talk to

her. She was a devoted

wife and mother, and her

grandchildren, Aidan and

Gemma, were the apples

of her eye. Kathy was the

consummate hostess not

only because of her cu-

linary skills, but because

of her care for her guests’

comfort, which she nur-

tured through her com-

passion, curiosity, and

conversation. She was a

quiet social conduit who

brightened the lives of so


One of Kathy’s motiva-

tions in life was not only

to help children thrive,

but also adults: she was

most happy when she

connected others with

resources, opportunities,

or each other. Her

wonderfully infectious

smile and sparkling eyes,

a “Know no strangers”

mantra, a resourceful na-

ture, and an ability to net-

work led to her improving

so many lives. For exam-

ple, to raise money for the

Burns Park Elementary

School library, she started

the Burns Park Run (now

in its 43rd year). She

raised money for two new

school playgrounds, or-

ganizing community

volunteers to build them

to stretch the money. So

that Ann Arbor’s

teenagers had a safe place

to go after school in order

to develop their interests

and new skills, she

co-founded Ann Arbor’s

Neutral Zone (which now

happily has its own build-

ing). She started the first

Seniors All Night Party at

Ann Arbor Pioneer High

School to provide the gra-

duating students a safe

place to celebrate, an idea

that spread rapidly. She

initiated and fostered the

Community Volunteers

for many years at the

University of Michigan

Depression Center in ord-

er to raise funds to help

children and adolescents

with depression, and she

chaired and served on

several community ser-

vice and PTO boards.

She is survived by: her

beloved husband of 45

years, James

Ashton-Miller, their son

Ian Ashton-Miller of Ann

Arbor, their daughter

Lindsay Van Zandt, hus-

band Mark Van Zandt and

their children Aidan (4.5

yrs) and Gemma Van

Zandt (2 yrs) of Brooklyn

Heights, NY, and Kathy’s

sister, Marilyn Fiedler, of

Minot, ND. They all miss

her terribly.

If you’d like, please

send a favorite memory of

Kathy to



and we’ll collate them

into an album for her


In lieu of flowers, the

family suggests a donation

in Kathy’s memory to the

University of Michigan

Depression Center. These

gifts will be used to sup-

port an endowment fund

to be established in

Kathy’s name to support

the research of an early

career faculty member in

order to help initiate a

paradigm shift in improv-ing the lives of children

and adolescents with


Gifts can be sent via


ashtonmiller or by check

made payable to the

“University of Michigan”

and sent to the Michigan

Medicine Office of

Development, 1000 Oak-

brook Dr., Ste 100, Ann

Arbor, MI 48104. Please

indicate your gift is in

memory of Kathy