Centertown Never Forgets
Sunday, May 31, 1942, was the memorial service for Welborn Lee Ashby, service number 287-44-72, who died at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, on the Battleship U.S.S. West Virginia (BB48) nickname ‘WeeVee.’ He was a 24 year old enlisted man, fireman third class. His military tombstone is next to that of his parents in Centertown Cemetery.
He was a 1936 graduate of Centertown High School, enlisting in the Navy on September 24, 1940. His last visit home after basic training was in November of 1940, after which on November 15, 1940 he boarded the West Virginia. He had been in Hawaii since February, 1941. His Naval career was over in February, 1942, with the arrival of a Navy Department telegram to his parents, Otis Welborn and Mary Inez (Tichenor) Ashby, stating they were unable to locate their son. The notice ended with “declared to have lost his life in the service of his country as of December 7, 1941.” He was also survived by two sisters and three brothers. The year 1942 also saw the loss of the Ashby home to fire.
Welborn Lee Ashby was born October 19, 1917, and better known to his friends as ‘Tiddely.’ In a letter, the governor of Kentucky, Keen Johnson, awarded him a posthumous commission as a Kentucky Colonel. His notification of the award referenced “that Kentucky appreciates his sacrifice.”
The service held at Centertown Baptist Church was to serve as a memorial for all war dead. Songs were included in the service by both Centertown choir and West Point choir.
To those living in Ohio County in 1941, this first casualty of the Japanese brought the reality of World War II to all homes, by the end of the war that number increased to 85 from Ohio County. For years the community was reminded of that loss at the annual Welborn Lee Ashby American Legion Horse Show held near Centertown School.
Saturday, June 13, 2015, at 10 AM will be dedication of F3c Welborn Lee Ashby Memorial Highway going past the cemetery and through Centertown on Highways 85 and 69. The dedication will take place at Centertown City Hall/Community Center. The City of Centertown will also announce name change of Heritage Park to Welborn Lee Asbhy American Legion and Auxiliary Heritage Park.
As his 1942 memorial service was for all war dead, this 2015 dedication is a symbolic tribute for all community veterans.
A motorcycle escort from Kentucky Rolling Thunder and others who want to join will meet at Midway Taxidermy at 9:30 on Highway 69 South and ride through Centertown Cemetery, where Ashby is buried, to pay tribute to him.
Welborn Lee Ashby interred in the Honolulu Memorial located in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The cemetery located in an extinct volcano is also known as ‘The Punchbowl.’ The Honolulu Memorial includes 18,096 names of American World War II Missing in Action, lost or buried at sea in the Pacific. His remains were recovered in 2007 and after two years of DNA testing, verified for burial. The Japanese attack having killed 2,402 Americans at Pearl Harbor.