Jul 10, 2010 - Tulsa native returns to celebrate 100th birthday

Tulsa native returns to celebrate 100th birthday

by: MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
Saturday, July 10, 2010
7/10/2010 6:23:56 AM

Coming home to Tulsa for her 100th birthday, Wavel Ashbaugh remembers horse-drawn buggies on Main Street.

Now she wonders: "Where are the people?"

"I knew downtown as the place to go to the ice-cream parlor and to the movies," says Ashbaugh, a direct descendant of Benjamin Perryman, one of the original Creek Indian settlers in the Tulsa area.

"I like downtowns, and I really miss that here."

Having lived in California since the 1940s, Ashbaugh came back to Oklahoma to tour several places from her childhood — including her mother's original 160-acre allotment, where Wilson Middle School now sits.

Healthy enough to live on her own, with an apparently flawless memory, Ashbaugh was glad to hear that downtown Tulsa has begun revitalizing. But she regrets the lack of landmarks honoring her ancestors.

"There is not one building — not a library, not a school — named Perryman," she notes. "My family was here before Tulsa, here when Tulsa began, and I don't want to be forgotten."

On Thursday, her actual birthday, Ashbaugh visited Monte Cassino, where she was part of the original class in 1926, when the Catholic High School opened as a finishing school for girls.

"There was just that one little building," she remembers. "And now they have a whole big campus. It's wonderful."

On Friday, Ashbaugh danced at a small birthday party at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, where her married name earns even more respect than her maiden name.

When her husband, known by the stage name Marvin Ash, died in 1974, radio newscaster Paul Harvey — another Tulsa native — described him as the finest pianist he had ever heard.

"He said that on the air," Ashbaugh remembers with pride. "The sad thing is that Marvin was also the most unrecorded pianist" because so few recordings were made and some haven't been preserved.

Sister Christine Ereiser visits Thursday with Wavel Ashbaugh at Monte Cassino School. Ashbaugh, who turned 100 that day, was part of the school's original class in 1926. CAROLINE NOLAN/ Courtesy
On Saturday, Ashbaugh will visit the famous Perryman Ranch in Jenks, where the main house was built the year she was born to replace the original homestead, which had burned down.

Ashbaugh remembers playing on the front porch as a little girl.

"I've seen a lot of changes," she says. "And, of course, the scientific advances have been marvelous. But I have to tell you what I notice the most is how people treat each other.

"I can find excuses, of course. It's a faster world. But people used to be more caring."

Michael Overall 581-8383