‘You don’t think it’s going to happen to you:’ Family remembers St. George officer killed by COVID-19

ST. GEORGE — Bobbi Anne Ashworth said her family was not the type to “rush to the InstaCare” or the doctor. Her husband, Adam, was an officer with the St. George Police Department who in 11 years of service had taken only two sick days. 

Family holds Adam Ashworth’s hand in the intensive care unit at St. George Regional Hospital, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Angela Furin, St. George News

So while they took precautions, COVID-19 was not really a fear for the healthy 39-year-old officer and his family.

“Adam and I weren’t getting the vaccine. We’ve never gotten flu vaccines,” Bobbi Anne Ashworth told St. George News. “Our family’s never in the hospital, never sick. We were trying to be a little precautious. We didn’t ever think that it would hit our home.”

But COVID-19 did hit home for the officer’s family after he died of the coronavirus Thursday

COVID-19 has been a kind of Russian Roulette where some get mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Such was the case for Bobbi Anne, who said she and her children also contracted COVID-19 during the last two weeks her husband had been in the hospital. Their symptoms were never more than mild.

But it did cost them a husband, father and a valued member of the community.

“I would have never thought in a million years that COVID would hit us like this,” Bobbi Anne said. 

She said post-infection she has now received the first dose of the vaccine herself but is burdened with the “what if” as far as what would have happened if her husband was vaccinated.   

An outpouring of flowers, notes, Diet Mountain Dews and Monster drinks cover a St. George Police vehicle set up at police headquarters as a memorial for Officer Adam Ashworth, who died of COVID-19, St. George, Utah, July 25, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“Maybe if he would have, it wouldn’t have been as serious and maybe not, but it might’ve given him that chance to survive.”

Over the weekend, Ashworth’s family and colleagues in the police force remembered him as the officer who had a special place in his heart, especially for the youngest in the community, known for passing around stickers to kids more than parking officers pass around parking tickets.  

Ashworth was remembered as a husband who share a young love that blossomed into the love of a lifetime and a father who was tough but also encouraged his children to reach high in their future. 

A nasty cough

A little over two weeks ago, Ashworth had what his wife describes as “a nasty cough” that just wouldn’t go away. 

It was enough that the family that doesn’t normally rush to the emergency room found reason to go there. Even so, there weren’t any thoughts of it being very serious. 

Officer Adam Ashworth shows off his police vehicle to his nephews, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Angela Furin, St. George News

“We just thought, you know, he would get breathing treatments,” Bobbi Anne Ashworth said. “We didn’t realize that it was as serious as it was.”

Sure enough, the officer got the breathing treatment and some steroid breathing medication and was sent home. 

But the coughing didn’t go away. And it got worse.

“Two days later, we had to take him back because he just … he couldn’t breathe,” Bobbi Anne Ashworth said, adding that he then he tested positive for COVID-19. “COVID took his lungs and wreaked havoc on his lungs.”

This time, Adam Ashworth was admitted to the hospital. Two days later, he had to be intubated and then placed into a medically-induced coma. Less than two weeks after that, he was gone, leaving behind a wife, three kids and many fond memories with family, officers and members of the community who have provided a large outpouring that has included more than $36,000 raised in a GoFundMe set up for the family, as well as a memorial set up in the parking lot of St. George Police headquarters.

Mountain Dews and Monsters

You might not think of the parking lot of the St. George Police Department headquarters at the tip of 200 East as a particularly serene place. But overlooking the St. George Valley, a memorial set up for Ashworth using a police vehicle was a quiet setting Sunday morning, interrupted only by the sound of a slight breeze, the buzzing cicadas or sirens in the distance. 

Several bottles of Mountain Dew are among items left on a St. George Police vehicle set up at police headquarters as a memorial for Officer Adam Ashworth, who died of COVID-19, St. George, Utah, July 25, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Ashworth’s parents, siblings, wife and children were gathered there. The police cruiser had “Officer Adam Ashworth, badge #P197, end of watch 7-22-21” on the front windshield. 

Just below it was a multitude of flowers as well as white Monsters and several Diet Mountain Dews – Ashworth’s drinks of choice while on duty. 

“For years and years and years, he drank the Monsters, the white Monsters. You’ll be hard pressed to find a police officer that doesn’t have a Monster, but the white ones were his favorite,” his wife said, adding that after a while, she became a white Monster fan herself. “It just kind of happens when you have it in the house all the time. Just recently within the last six months he quit Monsters. And so Diet Mountain Dew was his choice.”

The car had several messages of appreciation to the officer stuck to the vehicle with tape. 

A fitting reminder for an officer remembered for his fondness of helping the youngest St. George citizens and his constant supply of stickers to give them. 

Bobbi Anne Ashworth said her  husband always had stickers to give to the kids. 

“If there was a police officer that needed stickers, they knew to call Adam because he always had stickers for the kids,” she said. “He loved the community. He loved talking to all the little kids. There’s always the hard times and he was really affected anytime there was a child involved”

Officer Adam Ashworth shows a young child his police bike, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of St. George Police, St. George News

Over the weekend on their Facebook page, the St. George Police Department published pictures of Ashworth that his family said captured him well. He is seen showing off his police bike to a young boy barely tall enough to reach the handle bars. 

More than likely, that child also got a sticker, his wife said.

“Officers were saying how he inspired them to carry stickers and extra stickers to give out to the kids.” 

But she said her husband was not one to brag about his accomplishments on the force or another life he made a difference to.

“It wasn’t like that. He was very humble,” she said. “For him to come home and be like, ‘I made a difference here,’ he wasn’t like that. He just loved what he did.”

An officer’s life also needed moments of solitude.

“He used to sneak out of the house to just get away. And we never knew where he’d go. Like we just assumed it was some random place to be able to get away and collect his thoughts,” she said. “We found out that it was just down at the bike officer park and he’d listen to music.”

On Saturday night, Bobbi Anne Ashworth did the same.

I swear I wasn’t going to marry a police officer

Adam and Bobbi Anne Ashworth, who would have had their 20th wedding anniversary in January 2022, met when they weren’t much older than their daughter is now.  

Adam and Bobbi Anne Ashworth, photo location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Angela Furin, St. George News

Adam came in to start work at a local telemarketing firm where Bobbi Anne was a manager. She said it was not as much love at first sight as it was an amazingly strong attraction. 

“When you’re that young, you’re more twitterpated than you are in love,” she said. “We flirted and stuff like that, and then we started seeing each other on the down-low. I don’t know if it was love at first sight.”

She said they were polar opposites but they were “really happy.”

Part of the attraction for her wasn’t that he wanted to be a cop but rather that he didn’t express a desire to.

Bobbi Anne grew up in a household of police officers, while Adam did not. 

“My dad was a police officer, and I would swear I was not going to marry one,” she said, adding that her sister, brother-in-law and several cousins are officers in a “blue-line family.”

“I was trying to go the polar opposite. Adam had a tongue ring and was a rebel and you know, it was like, ‘OK, this guy is not going to be a police officer.”

Whether there was a police officer or not in Ashworth, his sister Angela Furin said he was always someone who wanted to protect others. 

“I hear him described as a police officer and, you know, everyone has different relationships with people, but the way he was as a police officer is really the way he was for me,” said Furin, the only girl among three brothers. “He was a protector and he took care of me. I’ve got a special place in my heart for him. It’ll always be there.”

That protector in him came to the forefront when the economy crashed in 2008 and the Ashworths were out of work six years into their marriage. 

He signed up to be a protector of the St. George community in September 2011 – a job that was chiefly as a part of the bicycle patrol unit and later its honor guard. At the time of his death, Ashworth was also a field training officer preparing another generation of St. George officers.

Protecting and training for the future was also a trait he brought into being a father. 

‘I was really proud of my dad’

Hannah Ashworth, like any teenage daughter, longed for her dad to show a little more affection beyond making sure she and her siblings went to bed on time, and she was annoyed about her dad’s persistence on being home on time before a curfew.

Adam and Bobbi Anne Ashworth and family, photo location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Angela Furin, St. George News

But the 18-year-old who recently graduated from Dixie High and is about to start classes at Southern Utah University she said she knows know that is how he showed her he loved her. 

“It took me a really long time to get to know my dad and to kind of start to recognize how he shows his love. Because for a long time, it frustrated me that he didn’t want to show it how I wanted to get it,” she said. “But really there’s things that he used to do. It meant he wanted me there, and he wanted me safe.”

Whether Adam Ashworth knew it or not, his daughter liked to brag to friends when she would go to a Dixie High football game and her dad was there in uniform, patrolling. 

“All my friends would want to go down and see him in uniform. And I got a kick out of it,” she said. “I mean, I … was really proud of my dad.”

As she heads on to college, Hannah Ashworth said she will always have her dad in mind and the fact that he always accepted a future for her as long as it made her happy and was one she would be dedicated to. 

“He made it very known that I had to find something that I was passionate about, like he was,” she said. “So I’ve decided to go to school to become an elementary school teacher to kind of put my impact on the world like he did and not get paid nearly enough money for it, just like he did. My life will be full of passion for what I do.”

Outpouring of love

Unlike earlier in the pandemic, protocols now exist for family to be at the bedside of someone with COVID-19. And members of Ashworth’s family maintained shifts to constantly be at Ashworth’s side. His family was with him when he passed last Thursday.

A caravan of police vehicles leads the body of Officer Adam Ashworth after he passed away of COVID-19 on July 22, 2021, St. George, Utah | Photo courtesy of St. George Police, St. George News

Upon his passing, a large caravan of St. George Police vehicles led his body from the hospital to the Serenity Funeral Home early Thursday evening. Officers have maintained a 24-hour sentry watch over the site since. 

In the same way, Ashworth’s family say they have been overwhelmed – in a good way – by the messages and calls of support. 

“The outpouring of love and respect shown to our son and his entire family has been humbling and brought great comfort,” Ashworth’s parents Ken and Jan Ashworth, said in a statement.

Bobbi Anne Ashworth said that support has given her strength. 

“I feel like I’m not walking by myself. I’ve been lifted up by all the prayers and support of the community and friends and family,” she said. “And, you know, we were praying. …  Thousands of people were praying for a miracle, and we didn’t get the miracle that we wanted. So we have seen so many tender mercies and miracles through this whole thing that it is hard not to recognize and be lifted by that.”

At the same time, she said her husband would have been humble as always about all of the attention.

A note left on a St. George Police vehicle set up at police headquarters as a memorial for Officer Adam Ashworth, who died of COVID-19, St. George, Utah, July 25, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“Adam would be floored. He would not have, even for a second, thought that this would have come out of his passing,” she said. “He was just that kind of person.”

A funeral that will be open to the public will be held for Ashworth on Aug. 4 at 11 a.m. The location has not yet been determined.

In the meantime, funds continue to be raised for the family on the GoFundMe page, and the public can leave a note, Diet Mountain Dew, white Monster or sticker for the officer and his family at the memorial at St. George Police headquarters.

“He was was born to be a police officer,” Bobbi Anne said. “Every quality he inhabited was on that uniform.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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