Jan Ashby, a Warrenton Middle School teacher and athletic director, and long-time Fauquier High multi-sport coach, has retired after 48 years in the system.
As Fauquier’s boys tennis coach for 26 years, Ashby had the longest coaching tenure in county history in any sport, matching FHS boys basketball coach Wayne Brizzi, who was hired the same year. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled Ashby’s final campaign last spring and Ashby opted to join recently retired Ellen Allen (Kettle Run girls basketball) and Doug Fisher (FHS wrestling).
"I've had fun. The people and kids have been nice," he said.
The friendly, upbeat Ashby, 69, has been a reassuring presence in Warrenton for nearly half a century. He was a star basketball player in Williamsburg who played collegiately. Since being hired as a teacher by Fauquier County in 1972, he has dedicated countless hours to guiding athletes in numerous sports.
On Friday nights in the fall you’d find him in that Fauquier High press box helping with football announcing duties.
"He's an all-around great guy. He'll help you with anything," said Fauquier activities director Mark Ott. "He's committed to his job and dedicated to his players.
"He puts in a lot of time for the kids," Ott said, noting Ashby often volunteers to help with booster club projects and other events at Fauquier.
Ashby also coached football and boys and girls basketball at the former junior high and current middle school levels, and was Warrenton Middle’s athletic director for 21 years.
Ashby coached boys and girls basketball at Fauquier, but his most memorable high school contribution was 26 years as the Falcons’ boys tennis coach, starting in 1994-95.
He is the county’s winningest boys tennis coach, although the exact number is not available. His teams captured multiple district titles and trips to regional play and reached the Virginia High School League state quarterfinals once.
Ashby recalls many of those exploits, yet when asked about highlights, he referred to a different kind of satisfaction. "Having the kids come in and say, 'Thank you for helping me,'" Ashby said.
"There are a lot of kids who came through all these schools that worked hard. The teachers and coaches put faith in them, and many have succeeded in school and life."
Ashby stepped into the boys tennis slot during the 1994-95 school year when Liberty High School opened. A second high school meant the school system needed twice the number of coaches, so both schools had openings.
Allen Creasy was in his first year as Fauquier's activities director after eight years as the assistant to John Chmara. Ashby was part of Creasy's boys basketball staff, so the new AD was familiar with the background.
"I knew Jan had played tennis," Creasy recalled. "And he was willing to take the job. He's a dedicated person who works well with kids. Over the years he had some good teams.
He was a good fit."
Ashby began playing tennis in the eighth grade, but basketball was his true love at Berkeley High School in Williamsburg where he graduated in 1968. His basketball prowess earned a scholarship to St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Va. He graduated in 1972 with a degree in education.
He applied to the Fauquier and Prince William school systems. Fauquier assistant superintendent of schools William Snyder offered him a job at H.M. Pearson Elementary School on a Monday. Prince William called on Tuesday with an offer.
He still vividly remembers his first day of employment, which was August 28, 1972.
Ashby is happy with his landing spot.
"Work hard, listen to your parents, behave yourself," he listed. "I try to teach kids to work. It's not always going to be easy."
He coached football at Taylor Junior High School before taking the Warrenton boys basketball position in 1974. He moved from Pearson to Warrenton full-time in 1978. He earned a master's degree in administration from Shepherd University in 2003.
Ashby, however, said he did not wish to pursue an administrative role, and remained a teacher.
"I like what I am doing, and I feel I can make a bigger contribution to the kids in the classroom," he explained.
He has taught math and physical education and was teaching earth science recently.
Ashby turns 70 this month and now occupies himself with projects around his house. He will be spending some time with family in Williamsburg, but he admits to a lower profile due to the pandemic.
"I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to enjoy life and take care of myself," Ashby said, laughing as he added, "I want to stay above ground a little longer."