A love letter to Ashland

Dear Ashland,

We’ve been through a bunch in 64 years – ups and downs, wins and losses, cheers and tears. We’ve stood together through shutdowns and letdowns, had some memorable moments and some disappointing ones.

I know you about as well as anybody. I’ve made it my business to know, as a journalist with a passion for sports, to carrying some well-earned institutional knowledge from being around a long, long time. I’ve raved about your past and crowed about your future.

You don’t have a bigger fan than me.

I’ve written about your people too, those great, great people – and even some of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the fields where we play. But, wow, do you ever have incredible people off the field, too.

Tradition has always been important to Ashland, whether it be in sports or business. We like to win whether it’s at Putnam Stadium or the local pickleball court. Sometimes we get hit hard but, you know what, Ashland? You always get back up.

For 42 years, from a wet-behind-the ears sportswriter to the editor’s seat, I worked for the Ashland Daily Independent. Most days didn’t even seem like work. I’ve been part of the Kentucky Baptist Convention for the past five years, helping tell the story of the 2,500 Baptist churches in the state and how their people work together in cooperative effort for the sake of the gospel. It has been an incredible experience. Who works two jobs that they absolutely love? This guy. My “office” has been my home, right here in Ashland, my hometown.

I was born at King’s Daughters, went to school at Charles Russell, Coles and Ashland. My wife (also born at King’s Daughters, attended Oakview, then Putnam and Ashland) and I have lived in Ashland all our 64 years, aside from our stays in college.  We’ve been fortunate to have a church family that is truly family, where friends come to your aid, where we try to live what the Bible teaches. I’ve sat under incredible pastors at Unity Baptist Church. Come and visit if you don’t have a church home. Our new pastor is indescribably good and will be a blessing to Ashland for years to come.

My wife’s parents have impacted my life more than they will ever know and the same goes for the families of my wife’s two sisters, all of whom live in Ashland. They are salt-of-the-earth people who would do anything for you. I’m blessed to have them in my life. They define family.

You’ve watched me be an ambassador for Ashland, which has part of my heart forever. I even made it to the dance floor for the Highlands Museum for goodness sakes! Nobody will forget the Gorilla being so light on his feet (yeah right). That alone should prove how far I’d go for Ashland because dancing is not part of my skill set. Far from it.

I’m honored that Ashland has considered me a favorite son and recognized me more than I deserved. I’ve enjoyed making time for conversation with so many of you in the grocery store aisles over the years, even if it made a 10-minute trip a little longer. My wife just shrugs. She knows how it goes.

But for the past almost five years, my wife and I have only been able to do some highlight visits with our grandson in northern Kentucky. And now our daughter is expecting a second child and our second grandchild in April. My daughter and her husband live in Union, Kentucky, and my son and his wife live in Middletown, Ohio. I’m sure you see what’s coming.

As much as I love Ashland – and anybody who knows me can give a hearty amen to that – my children and soon to be two grandchildren are loved even more. We’re not going to miss any more time with them because, even as much as Ashland offers us that family feeling, my children and grandchildren are my family. And we’re not getting any younger. Blink and your kids are in college, blink again and they’re having babies, blink again and their children are graduating high school. I can’t let another blink get away from me.

So, we’ve sold our home of 30 years and we’re packing our bags for a new adventure in northern Kentucky. It will be one that will include important time with the grandchildren – going to Little League games, tea parties, swimming lessons, cheerleading competitions, and ballet recitals or whatever else their little hands touch. Between my wife’s parents and mine, we are well-versed in what it takes to be all-world grandparents. They taught us well. We watched and learned. Three-week-old milk isn’t the only thing that’s going to be spoiled.

This journey will also include a new church home where we will continue to serve God with all our might because that’s what our Savior deserves. Life wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t. We look forward to what may transpire there as well. God is calling us away from Ashland and that just means something great is around the corner – make that several corners – in northern Kentucky.

You will continue to see me on Facebook with a lot more photos of my grandchildren (if that’s possible). And we’re less than three hours away, so we won’t be strangers. We will be making trips to Ashland and, don’t worry, it will include the August staples of the CP-1 Baseball Hall of Fame and the Amy For Africa Wiffleball Tournament. My role with the Amy For Africa ministry will continue as well. Do yourself a favor and see what God is doing in Uganda through this great organization.

I’ll be watching you too Tomcats (thanks MyTown TV) and writing about you from my new press row seat in northern Kentucky when the mood strikes me (which, as you know, is quite often).

I’ll be watching you too Ashland. My hometown has some great days ahead. Make us proud with decisions that benefit growth for our children’s futures. They matter the most.

I love you Ashland and always will.

So why leave you ask? It’s simple and can be explained in one word: Family.

2 thoughts on “A love letter to Ashland

  1. Mark,
    I certainly wish you and Beth the best! This chapter of your life is a wonderful one. Enjoy every minute. God has certainly blessed you and Beth and will continue to do so.

    You have always been there for the Estep family and are appreciated more than you will ever know.

    You all will certainly be missed by all in our community. The impact you have made on Ashland will be a lasting one.

    I personally wish you and your family the best. What a wonderful opportunity you have before you. I look forward to keeping up with you through social media! Take care and God speed!

    Pam Estep Pore


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