We gathered on Little Torch Key to celebrate the one year anniversary of John's death on Sunday, February 26, 2023 by taking his ashes to the channel off of Harbour Key.
John Robert Asbell died suddenly on February 26, 2022 while engaging in one of his greatest passions – traveling with his wife.
Born on March 18, 1947 in Thomasville, GA to Frankie Madena Asbell and Robert Noah Asbell, John grew up in Marianna, FL with his younger sister, Benjie Asbell. From his earliest days in elementary school, through his graduation in 1965 from Marianna High School and as a cadet at The Citadel, he formed friendships in his youth that he nurtured and cherished through his entire life.
A graduate of The Citadel Class of 1969, John’s service in the U.S. Army included one year in Vietnam. He earned his law degree from Stetson in 1974 before moving to Naples, Florida, where he established a law firm that he maintained throughout an esteemed thirty-five-year career. He had fond memories of working with his partners and associates, always proud of their accomplishments, grateful for their friendship, and appreciative of the way each gave him a new perspective – even when he didn’t want to hear it.
In his retirement he fulfilled many dreams, including traveling the world with his wife of twenty years; captaining his own boat on long stretches from the Bahamas, up past the Statue of Liberty and beyond; fishing adventures everywhere from the tropics to Alaska; and making regular visits to his daughter in Southern California, his stepchildren in New England, his sister and niece in Northern Florida, and his stepson in Arizona, where he got to spend time with the granddaughters who brought him much joy. Until moving to Tallahassee in 2020, he and his wife lived in the Florida Keys – a dream in its own right – and starting in 2012, they began spending extended periods in France. There they fell in love with a village in the Burgundy countryside, where they made a second home and created meaningful friendships that he felt opened a new window on the world for him.
John found beauty in the complex: detailed artwork from the places he lived and traveled; meals assembled using every pot and pan in the kitchen; gardens made to flourish in impossible soil; the web of disparate moments spun into history. When he cared about something, whether a subject matter, a project, or a person, he did so with focus and passion, searching not for broad strokes, but for the most intricate truths – delighting in the minutia.
For John, each detail was something new to learn, and he relished the opportunity to learn, to research. The natural world, food, wine, boats, fishing, football, golf, the places he traveled, the birds in his yard, the French language (which proved he didn’t have to be good at something to appreciate learning about it).
He believed any question worth asking was worth answering. Thoroughly. In complete, meticulous detail. Even if that question was as minor as “Where’s the best place to park in Key West,” you could expect to hear a brief 45-minute history of the construction of roads and bridges in the Florida Keys. You will know exactly why you should turn left instead of right. You will probably leave the house with a hand drawn map…
With John, you may get more detail than you were looking for, but it wasn’t bombast. It was because you were speaking with an individual who possessed the generosity repay your question with his full attention and thoughtful consideration. How rare is it for someone to put such thought into giving you exactly what you’ve asked for?
Generosity was John’s alchemy of joy. Nothing could truly be savored until he could share it with you. How many times did we get that call about that thing you HAVE to see or do? How many times did he go out of his way so you could visit that place, taste that food, experience this moment, see this landscape, read those words (or more often have them read out loud to you)?
He felt his relationships defined who he was, and while he was a man of many interests and achievements, he valued nothing as much as the people he took such care to love.
And as life itself is a question answered in its living, a good day was one spent with those friends and family, delighting in good food and wine, creating new and lasting memories, sharing his enthusiasm, his mischief, his jubilant appreciation for the beautiful complexity of this world.
Memories with John: https://youtu.be/D3BVj80fqbw
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