S. Joseph Ast, 70, of Kewanee, passed away to the afterlife on Sunday evening October 20, 2013 while hospitalized in the intensive care unit of Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. He was seriously ill, and suffered from Parkinson disease. He was hospitalized multiple times while in rehabilitation residence at Kewanee Care Nursing Home.A Celebration of Life with scripture service will be held at Rux Funeral Home in Kewanee at 3:00 PM, Saturday, October 26, 2013. Celebrant will be the Rev. Jerry Rafalko. Visitation will be held from 1:30 PM until the time of the service at the funeral home. Graveside service and interment will be in Pleasant View Cemetery in Kewanee, following the scripture service. Memorials made directly to Rux Funeral Home will be appreciated.
Joe was born in Austria on October 19, 1943, the son of Anna and Philip Ast. He married Carol, nee Dooley, on October 26, 1968. He was preceded in death by his parents Philip and Anna, and by his wife Carol. He is survived by his four children Elizabeth Ast, Daniel Ast, Emily Ast, and Elaine Ast-Baele (Jason); three grandchildren: Zachary, Courtney and Caitlyn; brothers John Ast (Maria) and Bruno Ast (Gunduz), and several nieces and nephews. Joe was the owner and operator of the Philip Ast Cabinet Shop, Inc. in Kewanee. The custom woodworking shop was established on Roseview Avenue in 1951, by Philip Ast and his wife Anna. From the beginning, the operation and work ethic of the Ast cabinet shop was based on “old world” craftsmanship and quality control that Philip learned as an apprentice in his native Yugoslavia. The love for the aroma of wood and sawdust, and the attention to quality and detail, were instilled in Joe at an early age, while sweeping the shop floors during his young years as a Visitation Elementary School pupil. Eventually, Joe earned Certification from the US Department of Labor as an apprenticed cabinet maker, all under the tutelage of his father Philip.
Following graduation from Kewanee High School, and some college education, Joe decided that he wanted to continue making cabinets, thus adding new energy and drive to the small, thriving business. He took the lead role in expanding the output of the shop, increased its service area, and hired more local workers. Eventually his father retired and Joe saw a developing opportunity to expand into a more mechanized form of cabinet door production. The economy was booming, the newly acquired machines helped fill product orders, and the shop hummed with activity and optimism – until the onset of The Great Recession business slump, leading to the closing of the shop.
During the Great Depression and the subsequent European turmoil and upheavals of World War II, Joe’s parents lost everything that they had worked for, and in their early middle age took advantage of an opportunity to emigrate to the United States, with help from relatives in the Prairie State. Joe arrived with them in Kewanee as a 6 year old, and by working hard, eventually was able to enjoy success and the freedom that life in the Midwest offers. He lived a good, productive life, as long as he could.
Joe enjoyed the outdoors, and as a youngster, built a home-made raft from salvaged building material, affixed a sail and rudder, and launched it from the family summer cabin on the Rock River. Later, he built a fiberglass kayak and a small sail boat, and took his young children on adventurous trips on nearby creeks and lakes. He took flying lessons, and soloed in a single engine airplane at Kewanee airport. Joe and his wife enjoyed several “love boat” cruises, and with their kids, crisscrossed the country in search of new vistas. He loved the outdoors, as much as he loved working with wood.
The entire Ast Family is grateful for the opportunity and welcome received in Kewanee. Joe was a beloved father, an admired brother, respected grandfather, dear uncle, and friend to all who knew him. His hallmarks are honesty and fairness, and his kindness and good heart are his legacy. We miss him terribly.