Remembering Kerry Ashmore: Publisher, musician

The Minnesota Dixie Dixieland Band performed last summer at the opening of the Van White Memorial Bridge. Left to right: Joy Judge, trombone; Steve Pikal, bass; Fred Richardson, clarinet; and bandleader Kerry Ashmore, banjo. (Photo by Margo Ashmore)

Kerry Ashmore, co-owner and co-publisher of the Northeaster and NorthNews newspapers, died Monday, Jan. 27 of cancer. He was 59. His ashes will be scattered privately, and celebrations of his life will be announced in the newspapers and on www.NENorthNews.com.

A full obituary will appear in the Feb. 19 Northeaster and Feb. 26 NorthNews. Community members’ favorite stories about Kerry are welcome for publication. Send to contact [at] nenorthnews [dot] com or mail to 2844 Johnson St. NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418.

A glimpse of the man: Kerry Ashmore was born in Indiana, the second son, fifth and last child of Herbert Ashmore and Sherley Smith Ashmore. The family later moved to Rochester and then Highland Park in Saint Paul. Kerry is survived by four siblings: Carole Ashmore, Bonnie Scot, Paul Ashmore (Terri) and Wendie Ashmore (Tim Salo), neice Alison Salo and nephew Michael von Maltzan.

Kerry’s bachelor’s degree was in music education, from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and he earned a K-12 teaching certificate. Volunteer service as an announcer, news director and general manager at the student radio station WMMR (now Radio K) introduced him to Margo Fluegel, a news person.

They married in 1977 and purchased the Northeaster in 1981. As the newspaper grew to include St. Anthony and Columbia Heights in 1983, adding NorthNews in 1991, their duties changed and exchanged. Most recently, Kerry edited the Northeaster, managed business operations and sold advertising while Margo edited the NorthNews and contributed articles to both.

Kerry Ashmore penned most of the newspapers’ editorials, often writing on topics of racial injustice. This carries on a tradition, in that a relative, Harry S. Ashmore was executive editor of the Arkansas Gazette and wrote Pulitzer Prize winning editorials during the 1957 desegregation crisis at Little Rock’s Central High School.

Music continued as a major part of Kerry’s life. He’d played banjo on weekends at the Fireside Lounge in West St. Paul through college. He played on riverboats and at business and community celebrations including Northeast and North Minneapolis with his own band, Minnesota Dixie, as well as Pig’s Eye Jass Band, Mouldy Figs, and others.

Students in Columbia Heights and North Minneapolis will remember Kerry’s volunteering for after-school sessions in how to improvise jazz music.

His greatest recent wish, which was fulfilled, was to keep playing vigorously through his illness; and to not be defined by illness. He enjoyed performing with the Jumpin’ Jehosaphats the Saturday before his death. Devoted long time friend and fellow musician Joy Judge was a constant companion, and helped Kerry manage his health.

Kerry Ashmore contributed time and advice to community, with special fondness for encouraging new initiatives like the We Love Our Presidents Walk, and challenging Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association to try new things in the early 2000s. He moderated several debates, read essays for contests, and helped plan events. At one time he served as president of the Minnesota News Council.

First Ward Minneapolis City Council member Kevin Reich said, “Kerry was unique in his field, in that he didn’t just report on the news, but was a part of the community conversation on all issues. His absolute engagement in this community and his passion for his work were always apparent to all and were key elements of the ongoing success of the Northeaster as a valued community asset. He will be missed.”

Those who knew him have posted hundreds of comments on various Facebook pages. We will share some of them in the Feb. 19 edition.

Margo Ashmore, Vince Brown and Joy Judge, along with freelancers Carol Jensen and Gail Olson will enthusiastically continue the newspapers. Special thanks to former staff Alicia Scott, Barb Kondrick and other contributors who produced content for this Feb. 5 edition.

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Margo Ashmore's picture
Margo Ashmore

Margo Ashmore is the editor of NorthNews.