Edwin (Ed) Aspinwall
Edwin (Ed) Aspinwall passed away peacefully at home in Thousand Oaks, on February 21, 2017, following a brief decline. He was 94.
Ed led a full life, rich in faith, love, and spirited humor. Ed began his life in the borough of Queens, New York, where he was born to John Aspinwall and Susan Boggs, immigrants, respectively from England and Ireland. When the spirit moved him, Ed could put on hilarious renditions alternating between New York and Irish accents.
Following graduation from high school in Queens, Ed studied engineering for one year at the Stevens Institute of Technology. Ed’s engineering studies were interrupted by World War II, and his decision to join the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1943. He was medically discharged approximately one year later due to perforations of his ear drums during flight. He was disappointed to leave the navy, but came to recognize he had been spared.
Ed did not return to engineering; he changed course to attend seminary and pursue a vocation as an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church. The reason he gave for this change of course was that World War II had caused him to believe that for him it would be “more meaningful to build bridges between peoples.” Ed completed his pre-theological education at Lafayette College, then went to McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
It was at McCormick, working as a server in the faculty cafeteria, that Ed met another seminary student, Alice Grace Simpson, who grew up on a small dairy farm in the San Joaquin Valley. Soon enough, the two began what Ed sometimes referred to “a brief and hectic courtship.” Ed and Alice would take brisk winter walks to the Lake Michigan shore, returning via a donut shop that served hot coffee. Some of their classmates were surprised that he from the city and she from a family farm could be an item, but Ed and Alice developed what would become a deep and abiding bond. On June 24, 1948, Ed and Alice were married. They honeymooned in Tuolumne Meadows, and returned to Chicago to finish seminary and work in a settlement house for women and children. Thus began their 63 year journey together.
Ed worked in a variety of positions during his career. A common theme in his life is that he sought, to the best of his ability, to make positive contributions to the community. He served as a pastor in churches in Ohio and East Los Angeles, before he came to Goleta in 1959 to serve as the organizing pastor of Goleta Presbyterian Church. His work in each of these areas was distinctly different from the others. In East Los Angeles, Ed and Alice reached out to the community and helped develop programs for the local youth and their parents, and in doing so helped establish a multi-ethnic congregation. Ed sometimes recalled that the members of the congregation bravely crossed social and cultural boundaries simply by walking through the church doors. In Goleta, the area was growing, but still largely surrounded by citrus groves. While the church buildings were under construction, members met in the Lions Club and held and Sunday school classes in a doctor’s office. Ed and Alice made life-long friends during the organizing efforts in Goleta.
In 1966, Ed accepted a position to serve as the executive director of the Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara, which provides counseling and community services. Following his “retirement” Ed completed the course work and examinations to become a certified financial planner. For several years, he led retirement planning seminars for clergy, who are often inattentive to their own financial planning. In the early 1990s Ed sought out an opportunity to volunteer as a teaching assistant at Isla Vista School, where he helped fourth and fifth graders with math and other problem solving skills. He volunteered three mornings each week, for approximately 15 years.
He was at least 85 years of age before he decided to pass the torch to the next generation of teachers and volunteers. Ed’s final volunteer position was as a chaplain at Goleta Valley Hospital. This in some sense completed a circle, as he had given the prayer of dedication to the ground breaking of the hospital some five decades earlier.
Ed and Alice lived a full life. Together they had three children. Family life included camping trips in the summer, and breakfast or dinner at Goleta Beach most any time. Especially when their children were grown, they frequently shared dinner at home with friends. They enjoyed long morning walks along their favorite mountain paths or at the beach. During spring, they would go see the wildflowers at Figueroa Mountain, and in the early autumn they liked to visit Yosemite Valley.
Alice passed away in January, 2012. Ed handled the difficult transition nobly. He lived for a time with his daughter Laurinda in Goleta, then moved to Thousand Oaks where he lived with his son Mark and his family. Ed enjoyed the comings and goings of his grandchildren, and continued his morning walks well into January, 2017.
Ed is survived by three children, Laurinda, Mark, and Tim; daughters-in-law, Marla and Moira; and grandchildren Bryce, Daniel, Matthew, Joseph, and Grace. Each benefited from his loving commitment to family, and his example of a faithful life well-lived. He was a man serious about his commitments, and had a serious sense of humor. We miss him greatly and are grateful for his life.
A public memorial will be held 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 11, at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Santa Barbara. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Direct Relief International, or Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, in the memory of Edwin H. Aspinwall.