Date: May 1st, 2007
At age 85, Clifford Ashley continues to lead an active lifestyle, which he attributes in large part to his work with kids. Working as a substitute teacher for the past eight years in Lake Placid, N.Y., Ashley teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade. Whether substituting as a first grade teacher in computer class, or calculus for seniors, to any other subject imaginable, Ashley has no problem keeping up.
After 15 years of retirement, Ashley read an article about substitute teaching that sparked his interest. "I felt that I wanted to contribute something as a volunteer. So after reading the article, I decided to do substitute teaching. And it turned out to be a very rewarding experience."
After taking a class for substitute teaching, Ashley admitted that he didn't know what he would do when he started. However, as time went by, teaching became more interesting. Chuckling, he remembers living through spit-balls and paper airplanes his first year. By the second year, he had gained the respect of the children, which he credits to his success.
"It's really been a growing period, and they have to realize that you're really interested in their welfare. Being able to maintain control of children is important for both teachers and substitutes. They respect me, and I respect them."
In the last couple of years, Ashley has frequently taught in the special education program. He's done a lot of one-on-one work with special needs children with autism and Down's syndrome. Ashley feels as though he relates very well with kids that really need the kind of attention that special needs children sometimes require.
"Kids with Down's syndrome and autism many times are really the most loving children to have a one-on-one with. Once you connect with them, they really are a pleasure to work with."
Kids are not the only thing that keeps him active. Ashley reveals that he's been physically active his entire life. At age 18, Ashley and a friend built a kayak and went kayaking down the Mississippi, which made the local newspaper. After graduating from Purdue in 1943, Ashley served as a Merchant Marine during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Later, he worked for 38 years at Mobile Oil, traveling the world coordinating Mobile's world-wide activities with headquarters.
"I went to all kinds of places in Europe such as Italy and France. However, some of my real interesting trips were places like India, where I traveled the outback and North Africa."
The father of five children, Ashley took his kids on frequent camping trips, and now he goes on fishing trips with his grandchildren. He also was an avid tennis player, participating in both singles and doubles matches until recently. Currently, Ashley skies and works out regularly at a fitness center, where he uses the treadmill and rowing machine and also lifts weights. Another factor that contributes to his good health is maintaining a healthy diet, something he gradually improved over time. Ashley's healthy, active lifestyle brings many benefits, and one he's proud of is that people often think he's 20 years younger. "People mistake me for being in my mid-60s," he said.
"Fortunately, I've always lead a very active life; traveling, enjoying trips with my family, playing sports and working out. So keeping up with a group of children is no problem; it has kept me active."
With his high energy, love of adventure and commitment to children, Clifford Ashley is shaping the lives of young people in Lake Placid, NY. The real question is: can the kids keep up with him?