Bill Asher was born Sept. 19, 1929, and spent his early years in Ajo, a town of about 4,500 in the southwest corner of Arizona. Famous as the site of the state’s first open-pit copper mine, Ajo was the kind of place where young Bill could scamper freely in a downtown just a five-minute walk from home. His father was a manager of the bank there, a prominent figure in town, and Bill loved to stop in to say hi.
“I used to go down there all the time,” Bill says. “Go around the city park and go into the bank and see my dad.”
One day when he was five years old, he was on his way to visit the elder Asher when he came face-to-face with four nuns dressed in flowing black habits. He had never seen nuns before. “I turned around and went across the street,” Bill says. “That scared me.” He then headed straight for the bank and found his father, who reassured Bill that the nuns were good, nice people.
Bill was more impressed by some retired miners he saw smoking pipes downtown one day. He marched into the general store and demanded to buy one of his own. The clerk picked up the phone and rang Bill’s dad. “Your son Billy wants to buy a pipe,” the clerk said.
“Go ahead and give it to him,” replied Bill’s father, who seldom refused his only son’s requests. Billy, as he was called as a child, charged the pipe to his dad's account and crossed the street to join the men, who were delighted as the boy pretended to puff alongside them. “They all laughed at that,” Bill says.
Bill was about eight years old when his family moved two hours northeast to Mesa, Arizona. His youngest sister, Helen, was born there, bringing the Asher clan to six including Bill, his other sisters, Margie and Polly, and their parents. His mother, who was named Bernice Mae but went by Polly, stayed at home to take care of the children while her husband went to work. Bill went to school, played with the kids in the neighborhood and excelled at running track, earning a Varsity letter in high school.
But what he really loved was golf, which he learned by playing with his dad. As an adult, Bill mostly played with his dearest pals, Pete, Jack and Bruce. After Bill was grown, his father bought a home that backed up to the Mesa Country Club, and Bill enjoyed playing rounds with him there.
Bill graduated from Mesa High School in 1948, and enrolled at Arizona State University in Tempe. He left after about a year to join the U.S. Air Force. After training in San Antonio, he wrote daily morning reports about promotions and other news at the bases where he was stationed, first in Denver and later in Spokane, Washington. Bill continued to golf and fondly remembers playing a round with his dad at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California after he was discharged from the Air Force in Washington. He met his father there and played golf with him before going back to Arizona.
Like his father, Bill worked in banking after he left the Air Force. He moved to Phoenix, where he chased down past-due payments from residents as a loan officer for Valley National Bank. It was in Phoenix that he met Mary Ellen Petersen through mutual friends. They married and later had one child, Kathy. Animals were important in the Asher household and Kathy doted on dogs like her Skye terrier, Daisy May. Bill proudly watched Kathy graduate from Baylor University in Waco.
She and her husband David gave Bill three grandsons, Aaron, Andrew and John. He loved to spend time with the boys, teaching Aaron to golf with a set of plastic clubs and taking Andrew to play a round at Inks Lake. Bill remembers once touring Austin on a Duck Adventure and making quacking sounds with John. On another memorable trip in 2006, Bill and Mary Ellen, who had divorced but were still friends, visited the Grand Canyon with Kathy, David and the kids. Bill remembers how they stood on the rim and gaped into the chasm below.
Bill and Mary Ellen went to Texas every Christmas. After a holiday trip in 2016, he decided to relocate to Austin to be closer to Kathy. He moved to Sundance Memory Care and now hosts his family there. Bill doesn’t spend time on the golf course anymore, but he still loves the game. He practices his putting on a small artificial green below the window in his room, and he’d be happy to show you his swing.