Ashton “Bo” King | Tomlinson June 21, 1939 – November 08, 2020 | OBITUARY

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Ashton “Bo” King Tomlinson
June 21, 1939 – November 08, 2020




U.S. Veteran



Ashton “Bo” King Tomlinson passed away at the age of 81 (He liked to make it known that he was living in his tenth decade) on the evening of November 8th in Lake Wales Florida, where he had undergone an urgent surgery the evening before. He died peacefully with his daughter Kate, Granddaughter Josephine, and dear friend Liselotte at his side. He is survived by his daughter Kate Tomlinson Phillips, son-in-law Michael, grandson Miles, granddaughter Josephine, from Decatur GA, sister Gale Tomlinson Hussey of New Orleans LA, and many nieces and nephews and friends.


Bo was born in June 1939 in Lake Wales, Florida to John Pitt Tomlinson Jr, and Charlotte (Ella) Bassage Tomlinson. His father and grandfather were physicians in the small town and loved by many. By all accounts, his childhood was idyllic growing up in central Florida among the citrus groves, lakes, and cattle ranches with his 2 older siblings, brother Pitt and sister Gale, many close friends, and several pets, including his Grandmother’s parrot, “Lorida”, whom they would put in a tree in their yard on Cohassett Avenue where she would speak to/startle strangers as they walked by. His mother kept a daily journal and she made hundreds of fun entries about him such as from August 5th, 1941: “Ashton banging 2 cans together and I shouted ‘What are you doing?!” He said “Making too much noise.” He retained this wonderfully dry sense of humor for his entire life.


He attended Polk Avenue Elementary School for 1st – 6th grade and on the first day of school got hit in the face by a swing which knocked his front teeth out and rendered him unconscious. He woke up at the Orlando Air Base where he had his dental surgery and remembers having such fun with the doctors and nurses and getting lots of attention.


At Lake Wales High School, he was on the swim team and played the tuba in the marching band. He could waterski barefoot. He was voted “wittiest” in 10th grade, which is not surprising – he had several good buddies with whom to have fun– and they were masters of pranks and practical jokes. They were always in good fun – never mean. Here’s an example: Bo and friends hatched a plan to play a joke on their classmate and friend Win Mims by submitting a fake letter in his name (requesting pen pals) to the magazine “Fifteen Love Stories”.  In the letter they described him as an invalid staying with an aged uncle… “Before my accident, I was quite popular with the girls, but now, although I’m considered handsome, none of my old girls want to see me. I am left all alone except for my uncle and little dog, Lightfoot”.


They didn’t think too much about it until one day they were walking home from school with Win and Mrs. Mims was waiting for them at the front door. Beside her was a huge bag of letters from girls all over the country wanting to comfort the poor little boy in a wheelchair.  Mrs. Mims was furious – and she knew very well who caused the deluge.


He graduated a year early from high school and went initially to Emory at Oxford College. He joined the Army 6 months before the Vietnam War broke out and after basic training in Oklahoma went into the Army National Guard where he served for 6 summers, never seeing combat.  He returned to finish school at Suwanee University in Tennessee (he said this was a better choice for him to stay out of trouble since it was all male and religious-based). He graduated from Suwannee in 1963 with a degree in Biology.


He loved random trivia, such as the fact that Suwanee had the bragging rights for the best ever college football team with a record 12-0 (with 11 shut outs) in the year 1899. He went back to Emory for law school and graduated in 1969. He met his first wife, Priscilla LeGwen Gulick during this time, and they had one daughter in June of 1969.  His first attempt to pass the state bar exam was on the day that his daughter was born (he understandably did not pass this first time, but did in early 1970 and practiced law in Decatur Georgia for many years. He and Priscilla divorced, and in the 1980’s he married Fahy Wright and they bought a home in Marietta Georgia. He lovingly cared for Fahy when she became ill at the end of her life. A highlight of the 1980’s for him was a grand trip he took to Italy with his mom – he wanted to return there someday.


His daughter fondly remembers spending many of her childhood weekends with him and those times being full of fun – she was allowed to buy sugary cereal to eat there and he lived across the street from a Dairy Queen. He also had a – not running – convertible Spit Fire that she and her school friends would play and “drive” in.


He became part of a spiritual recovery community in 1985, making more lifelong dear friends with whom he enjoyed every single day (as well as the continued joy of pranks and practical jokes). Some examples of this are: a friend sneaking one of each of his pairs shoes from inside his house. For months, Bo wore mis-matching shoes, with no one ever saying a word about it. After a few months, the friend returned all the shoes to his home. And once, after a garage sale, another friend took many of his unsold items to Bo’s home while he was out of town. He placed furniture all around Bo’s house and hung pictures on the wall – in true form, Bo never said a thing about it.


He stopped practicing law, because, perhaps, he was just too nice to be a lawyer? He, like his father before him, would take things rather than money (such as food from clients’ gardens) as payment when they could not pay their bills.  He did join his good friend (and fishing buddy) Wade as a process server later in life and truly enjoyed that for many years. He worked some and played some, always taking time to do things he enjoyed most – traveling to Florida to fish and camp, motoring around in his canoe, playing card games, and reading, lots of reading.  He REALLY enjoyed reading. He also spent much time on his computer – emailing friends and family jokes and random, interesting historical facts…”today is the birthday of…”


He was a parent chaperone on several of his daughter’s grade school trips; most notably to camp in tents on Cumberland Island and also canoeing in the Okeefenokee swamp. He was funny and entertaining and loved to scare the kids with ghost stories around the fire. He knew magic tricks and wonderful jokes and could say the alphabet backwards. He could recite poems by heart. He could throw a wooden top. He could fix things in houses and on cars and boats. He once won a contest (and a 35mm camera) for the “best beard”. He taught each of his grandkids to drive (in his Subaru on a cow pasture).


He adored both of his grandchildren (or grandtwerps, as he called them) and created many happy memories with them over the last 20 years including trips to the beach and mountains, also visiting Bok Tower and other beautiful Florida landmarks, like Highlands Hammock and Crystal River.  He celebrated Groundhog’s Day every year and would send cards to his family to remind them to as well. His family and friends celebrated his 80th birthday with him in 2019 with dinner at The Columbia Restaurant in Tampa – this had been a favorite of his since his childhood. On his last day on earth, his granddaughter Josephine was able to tie his hair into knots (like he would do to her) and also give him a final “noogie”.


He moved back near his beloved hometown of Lake Wales in 2012 and lived for a time out in a fisherman’s cabin on the river inside his childhood friend Billy Zipperer’s family’s remote and beautiful cattle ranch. Here he fished and read and just enjoyed being immersed in quiet and nature (especially with the Sand Hill Cranes and Bald Eagles). In 2014 his sister Gale insisted that he move closer to her (in town) so that she could reach him by cell phone if needed. He moved into a wonderful apartment community at the same Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd that he had grown up attending. It was within walking distance of the Lake Wales Library –which was a definite plus for him.


His last years were filled with continued good, happy, fun and blessedly simple times. He absolutely loved that he was again living in Florida – his daughter recently enjoyed the times of driving around Lake Wales and its vicinity – sparking his memory and then listening to him reminisce about the past. Many of these reminiscences are recorded. His recent daily life consisted of eating a good breakfast and enjoying coffee all day, then reading, doing crossword or Sudoko puzzles, resting, (“lazing” he liked to call it), listening to talk radio and music on CDs (1950’s hits, classical, and his favorite – Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien by Edith Piaf – listening to this would always bring tears to his sparkling blue eyes) and attending regular weekly Great Courses classes and recovery and spiritual meetings. He liked to attend the live MET Operas at the local movie theater. He enjoyed eating out at local restaurants. He did not want or have internet or TV in his apartment. He fed the birds and squirrels out his back door, and grew plants on his front porch. He had a chameleon guest for a while. The pandemic truly, thankfully, did not change his routines too much. The first time he received groceries via Instacart from his local Publix he was happily AMAZED at how he could text his grandson Miles his grocery list in the morning and have everything delivered to his front door just a couple of hours later. His texted grocery lists were -of course- funny. Here’s an example:


chopin liszt:

½ gal mil – loaf white bred – hen eggs – sliced blony – niller I scream – jimmy dean froze sausage biskits – letis – bacon – hog jowl. no rush.


He once taught his daughter an important life lesson regarding sausage biscuits. After his heart valve replacement surgery in 2006, they were together on vacation in Fort Myers at his sister Gale’s house on the Orange River. His daughter strongly fussed at him for his request of frozen sausage biscuits because of the sodium and fat content (blah blah blah). He said to her : “Kate, your stress about what I am eating will do you more harm than the food I enjoy eating will do to me.” Point was taken.


Bo will be missed by many.


His memorial service will be on June 21st, 2021 (on what would have been his 82nd birthday) in Lake Wales, Florida and also with virtual Zoom access – more details to follow.

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