Beverlee Ashmele, who devoted her long career to Jewish communal service, especially the development of women leaders, died from cancer on March 18. She was 84.
Ashmele was a professional with Federation CJA for close to 50 years, and was instrumental in the creation of its women’s division.
Federation CEO Yair Szlak described her as a pioneer and a mentor whose loss is felt profoundly by the community as a whole.
“She was instrumental in creating Women’s Federation, raising the profile of women’s philanthropy, volunteering, and leadership,” he said. “She inspired lifelong friendships and had an unparalleled passion for community and taking care of one another. Her impact will be felt for years to come as she has developed and stewarded generations of leaders and donors. She was recognized nationally and internationally for her achievements.”
Ashmele, née Freedman, was a striking-looking woman, stylish and always smiling. She is remembered for her extraordinary energy, work ethic and wisdom. She was loyal and genuinely interested in each individual, seeing their potential often before they did.
Sandy Martz, a longtime Women’s Federation lay leader, recalls: “To know Beverlee is to love her, and to learn from her—lessons in so many dimensions, professionally and personally. She nurtured and ‘grew’ a whole generation of CJA women leaders, who in turn inspired others to join the fold. Her lifelong deep commitment to community and to family will continue to inspire others who follow.
“I don’t think anyone who knew Beverlee can fully absorb that she is no longer with us. She was forever young and full of physical, intellectual and spiritual energy. She was epitome of ‘eshet chayil’, a woman of valour, replete with grace, elegance, and consummate professionalism and dedication.”
Sarah Tobias, another volunteer, says Ashmele was “one of the strongest women I have ever known, never deviating from a lifelong commitment to family, community and to living a purposeful life, always genuinely interested in how you were doing, how your family was doing, looking for opportunities to lend moral support and encouragement. She truly understood what unconditional friendship and loyalty mean.
“She realized before most of us that there was no limit to the power that could be unleashed by building a network of women across generations, geography, cultures. Through thick and thin, Beverlee focused on putting her passion to work, that is, to give every woman, no matter at what stage in life, the opportunity to shine, to believe in herself, to express her values and to appreciate her respective talents and strengths.”
In her obituary, the family describes her as a great leader and mentor “whose greatest pride was the development and accomplishments of others.” She “lived life to its fullest to her 85th year.”
She was predeceased by her husband Jeff and daughter Felice, and is survived by her son-in-law Barry Pascal, her son and daughter-in-law Todd and Karen, and her grandchildren. Ashmele was also a wonderful friend to Manny Batshaw in his latter years, until he died at 101 in 2016. Batshaw was a fellow community professional, notably executive director of the federation’s forerunner, Allied Jewish Community Services.