Samuel F. Ashelman Jr., 97

August 13, 2010
  • Samuel F. Ashelman Jr.

FEB. 12, 1913-AUG. 10, 2010

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Samuel F. Ashelman Jr., 97, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., founder of Coolfont Resort and Conference Center and the Coolfont Foundation for the Arts and Environment, passed away Aug. 10, 2010, at Berkeley Springs Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Berkeley Springs.

Born Feb. 12, 1913, in Port Carbon, Pa., he was the son of the late Samuel Freas Ashelman DDS of Port Carbon and Eliza Scott Ashelman from Philadelphia.

Ashelman graduated from Swarthmore College in 1937, having worked his way through college partly by running a travel agency. This thread continued his whole life as he traveled close to 100 countries for work and pleasure, resulting in many adventurous tales with which he loved to amuse listeners.

After college, he became a major force in the consumer cooperative movement in the United States, working with the Greenbelt Consumer Cooperative outside of Washington, D.C., which also gave rise to the Scan Furniture chain, and later working as a consultant in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.


A lifelong Quaker, he was a member of Sandy Spring (Md.) Friends Meeting during his time in the D.C. area. There, he moved his family to a farm, where he imported the first herd of Icelandic horses in the U.S. and continued his love of healthy eating and exercise. He also was an avid sailor, captaining his double-masted schooner on voyages to New England and Florida.

In 1961, together with Rosalyn and Alden Capen, Ashelman and his wife, Margaret, and family developed Coolfont Re+Creation in Berkeley Springs. Coolfont became a famous mid-Atlantic getaway where West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd played his fiddle, Vice President Al Gore and his wife repeatedly vacationed, and which hosted luminaries in national and international politics, science, business and entertainment.

The resort expanded to include a popular full-service spa under the guidance of Ashelman's second wife, Martha Work Ashelman, as well as a popular conference center serving such organizations as NASA, the State Department, National Science Foundation, World Bank and many others.

Under Sam and Martha Ashelman's leadership, the Coolfont Foundation also sponsored free classical music concerts by world-renowned musicians including Peter Basquin and the American Chamber Trio, as well as a variety of dance and theatrical performances including dancers and musicians sent by the Chinese Embassy in Washington, featured on a special broadcast on West Virginia Public Television.

After astronaut Sally Ride spoke at Coolfont of the pollution seen from space, Ashelman became passionate about the environment and founded the Small World Coalition to address environmental problems. Later, he rented the Star Theatre in Berkeley Springs for two free public showings of Al Gore's groundbreaking movie about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," with many high school students attending. He also bought cases of Gore's books to distribute locally.

Well into his 90s, Ashelman was still active in a new business designing and building energy-efficient houses using geothermal heating and cooling.

He is survived by one sister, Mary A. Wood in Fort Myers, Fla.; two daughters, Siri A. Thar in Ypsilanti, Mich., and Lisa Ashelman in Fairfield, Iowa; three sons, Peter B. Ashelman in Ranson, W.Va., Eric S. Ashelman in Fairfield and Randall B. Ashelman in Romney, W.Va.; nine grandchildren; and 22 great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Hunter-Anderson Funeral Home in Berkeley Springs. Memorial services will be at Berkeley Springs Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Aug. 22, at 3 p.m. with the Rev. Robert Osborne officiating.

Contributions in memory of Samuel F. Ashelman can be made to Hospice of the Panhandle, 122 Waverly Court, Martinsburg, WV 25403.

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