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Thursday, October 9, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Jane Mccaffray Ashmun, 79, Matchmaker Of Minds, Souls

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Jane McCaffray Ashmun was a born matchmaker. Not the romantic kind, but a matchmaker of minds and souls.

Mrs. Ashmun paired Seattle University students with inner-city youth who needed tutoring. She helped needy or abused young people find permanent homes. And she directed literary buffs to the perfect "read" in bookstores she operated.

She puttered in her garden. She also practiced yoga and had her photo taken standing on her head on Federal Avenue East on her 60th birthday.

But mostly she gave to others. The CARITAS tutoring program and the Francis House to aid the needy are among her legacies.

"People just adored her," said her friend Betty Salter. "She was complex, and not always cooperative. She had a commanding voice. But she was a strong person with a great heart. She wanted everybody to stand on their own two feet."

Mrs. Ashmun died of pneumonia and massive infection Sunday (Oct. 5) at her Seattle home. She was 79.

Her daughters praised her selflessness although it sometimes took her away from them.

"She was always giving," said her daughter Mimi French of Santa Cruz, Calif. "It was always the philosophy with Mom that she'd give you the shirt off her back. You'd come home and the car would be gone; she'd given it to someone."

Born in Seattle, Mrs. Ashmun grew up on Capitol Hill and graduated in 1935 from Forest Ridge Convent of the Sacred Heart.

She earned a bachelor of arts degree in English literature and French at the University of Washington in 1940, then with a friend opened a lending-library and bookstore at Broadway East and East Roy Street.

"She loved books, Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot," French said. "She had stacks of books on her night stand and piles behind the sofa."

Married in 1941, Mrs. Ashmun focused on homemaking in Virginia, Massachusetts and California. But she returned to Seattle in 1959, divorced her husband and plunged into volunteerism.

She worked at Balcony Books in the Pacific Science Center and also helped run a jade shop in Madison Park from 1977-1985, enjoying buying trips to Hong Kong. But the store, said her partner, Salter, "was more for therapy than business."

Other survivors include her children Barbara Johnson of Camano Island; Suzanne Cetincelik, Seattle; Jane Peck Larson, Capitola, Calif.; Mary Denise Murphy, Santa Cruz, Calif.; and Bob Ashmun, Seattle; her sister, Dorothea Hiltenbrand, Seattle; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Her brothers William, Theodore and Arthur McCaffray, who ran the National Frozen Food Corp. of which she was a director, predeceased her. So did her sister, Mary Anderson.

Mass was to be celebrated at 11:30 a.m. today at St. Joseph Church, 732 18th Ave. E., Seattle. Remembrances may go to Francis House, 169 12th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122; or Hospice of Seattle, 425 Pontius Ave. N., Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98109.

Carole Beers' phone message number is 206-464-2391. Her e-mail address is: cbee-new@seatimes.com

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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