NEW FRANKLIN West Nimisila Road was a route Joseph Allen Ashley and his brother, Ben, often traveled including it being their route to school.
Now, West Nimisila Road between South Main Street and state Route 93 has been designated as the Joseph Allen “Joey” Ashley Memorial Highway following a ceremony on Memorial Day.
Ashley, a 1999 graduate of Manchester High School, lived along the stretch of road until he enlisted in The United States Navy in 2001 and became a Navy Machinist 2nd Class.
Ashley died Jan. 9, 2005, when the submarine he was on, the U.S.S. San Francisco, struck an undersea mountain 360 miles southeast of Guam. The submarine was traveling at maximum speed and was submerged 525 feet when it struck the undersea mountain. Ashley was thrown 20 feet and struck his head on a large metal pump and was knocked unconscious.
He died the next day.
The other 136 member crew reported injuries, but Ashley was the only fatality. Many credit him for his care and expert maintenance of the vessel’s diesel engine, which was used after the crash to surface and return to Guam bringing the rest of the crew back to base safely.
According to the Ship’s Engineering Officer and Navigation Officer, Ashley had an impressive reputation at Naval Base Guam. As subs would pull in for repairs, especially diesel issues, they would first look to see if the San Francisco was in port in hopes that Ashley was on board and available to do the repairs, as he always seemed to know how to fix even the toughest problems.
New Franklin Mayor Paul Adamson said he had the privilege to coach Ashley when he was only seven or eight years old.
“Joey is a hero,” Adamson said. “We are honored one of our own served this country with dignity and honor.”
Ashley’s mother, Vicki Matics, a Gold Star Mother for him and a Blue Star Mother for Ben, thanked the community for all their support.
Ben Ashley is a Warrant Officer in the United States Army and also thanked everyone involved, especially Adamson, who saw this project through and made it happen. Ben said he hopes the stretch of road being dedicated will serve as a reminder of all the men and women who have and are serving the country.
Ashley’s father, Dan; brother, Danny; and three sisters, Melissa, Vickie, and Stephanie; along with extended family members, also attended the dedication.
State Representative Bill Roemer presented a proclamation from the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate in honor of Ashley.
In addition to the stretch of roadway being dedicated, in 2016 Ashley’s fellow classmates organized an event to dedicate a plaque in his honor at the Ohio Veteran’s Memorial Park in Clinton. There is also a memorial for him which stands in the Diesel Mechanic Department of the U.S. Navy Submarine School in Groton, Ct., where his uniform also hangs.
He was also honored in 2006 by then-Senator Michael DeWine, who is now the Ohio governor, in the Dec 5, 2006 Congressional Record.
The New Franklin Road Department is expected to install the signs along the road soon.