Remembering Great Western’s John ‘Jack’ Asay

A 1968 graduate of Lovell High School with long family ties to the Lovell sugar factory paused while perusing old photos at the Lovell-Kane Museum at the chamber of commerce building Friday to tell a few stories about her family ties to Lovell.

John Hatch “Jack” Asay and his brother Joseph Asay are pictured. Both were longtime employees of the sugar company.
John Hatch “Jack” Asay and his brother Joseph Asay are pictured (l-r).  Both were longtime employees of the sugar company.

Sandra Wallace Janzen of Colorado Springs, daughter of Betty Asay of Lovell and the late Curt Wallace, was in town visiting her mother and took a moment in light of the centennial celebration of the Lovell factory to reminisce a bit.

Janzen said both her grandfather, John Hatch “Jack” Asay, and her grand uncle, Joseph Asay, worked for the Great Western Sugar Co. for many years, even at the time of the construction of the factory in 1916.

The flu pandemic claimed John Asay’s father Aaron and his older brother David in 1918, five days apart, Janzen said, which left John as the oldest remaining child at home out of nine sons and daughters. He was 14 or 15 when he went to work at the factory, having been born June 8, 1901.

John was born at the family place on the Shoshone River where the Asays ran a ferry across the river after coming to Lovell in the late 1890s. When the factory was being built he worked as a water boy during construction, then stayed with the company.

“He worked for Great Western for 50 years,” Janzen said. “He loved Great Western. He moved up the ranks and retired as an assistant superintendent. Many a picnic for the sugar tramps was held over the years at the Asay cabin at Porcupine on the mountain.”

Janzen and John’s son Ken Asay of Pavillion said one time John was working on a truck with a hydraulic box when the box suddenly gave way and came down on him, crushing him between the box and the bed.

Sandra Wallace Janzen displays a photo of the Great Western Sugar Co. factory crew taken during the early 1960s in which her grandfather, John Hatch “Jack” Asay and his brother Joseph Asay (l-r) are pictured. Both were longtime employees of the sugar company.
Sandra Wallace Janzen displays a photo of the Great Western Sugar Co. factory crew taken during the early 1960s in which her grandfather, John Hatch “Jack” Asay and his brother Joseph Asay are pictured. Both were longtime employees of the sugar company.

“It almost killed him,” Janzen said. “For his rehabilitation he put a roof on the cabin. They told him he would never have the use of his right hand again, but he regained it. He was part of that generation.”

John and Evelyn Marie O’Donnell Asay had 11 children and 63 grandchildren, and the family farmed along with John’s factory job, living at the corner of Road 11 and Lane 13 south of town. He also worked several winters for Great Western in Puerto Rico where the company had a sugar cane operation. John retired from the company around 1966.

All 11 children were delivered by Dr. William Watts Horsley, Janzen said. Still living besides Betty and Ken is Carole (Chuck) Meyer of Dubois.

By David Peck

 

One comment

  1. David, thank you for the wonderful article you wrote about Great Western and my grandpa, Jack Asay and Uncle Joe Asay. I am sure they would have felt honored by it. They were both very special men who came from a generation and family that valued a work ethic and family. Thanks again for doing such a great job.

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