John Phillip Ascher, Jr. Born:  May 14, 1928    Died:  April 15, 2011

John Phillip Ascher Jr., Knoxville resident and railroad retirement activist John Phillip Ascher Jr, 82, died April 15 2011, at his home in Farragut, TN.

Friends will be received Monday, April 18, at First Baptist Church in Concord from 5:00 - 7:00 pm, followed by a service at 7:00 pm. Burial will take place at Pleasant Forest Cemetery on Concord Rd at 2:00 pm, Tuesday, April 19.

Mr. Ascher was born May 14 1928 in New York to Eleanor and John Phillip Ascher, Sr. He grew up on Long Island, developing an early love for history and the railroad. At age 15, he began working for the Maine Central Railroad, embarking on a career that would span six decades. He completed his education at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. While attending school, he met his future bride, Baptist Book Store clerk Mary Jane Rule, while on a visit to the store, and the two were married February 14 1952. He passed away just shy of their 60th wedding anniversary. After college, his role as a conductor and engineer on the railroad led him to move his family many times of the next 20 years. All four of his children survive: Vicki Marie Ascher Doyle, Valerie Lynn Ascher Raby, Katherine Phyllis Ascher Harralson and Frederick Charles Asher.

He moved the family back to Knoxville in 1971 after the railroads were nationalized and forced a generation of railroaders into the unemployment line. He returned to the industry in 1977, working for the Blue Island Railroad in Chicago before taking the helm of the Great Western Railway in Loveland, Colorado in 1983.

The Aschers returned to Knoxville upon his retirement in 1990, where he continued working for retirement benefit equality for Railroad Retirement Fund surviving spouses to be on par with Social Security retirees. After working tirelessly for years, Mr. Ascher successfully shepherded the Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act of 2001 through the United States Congress. Mr. Ascher was a member of the Masonic Lodge for more than 50 years. In retirement, he enjoyed playing his concertina with various local civic groups and churches.

He is survived by his wife and four children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The family asks for donations in memory of Mr. Ascher to the American Diabetes Association in lieu of flowers at (800) 342-2383. Please sign the online guest register book at Highland Memorial Funeral Home 865-588-0567.

Published in the Knoxville News Sentinel (TN) April 17-18, 2011.

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