Just about everybody in town has seen or heard of Ken Ashley-Pauley standing on the corner of College and Donaghey holding his sign.
His son overdosed earlier this year on a mixture of drugs including Xanax and cough syrup in the old, blue rent house across the street. By the time one of the college students who rented the house thought to take him a few hundred yards down the street to the hospital it was too late.
Twenty-year-old Josh Ashley-Pauley was unconscious on the couch for hours, "snoring funny," his dad said. Ken knows what happened based what the renters of the house — ostensibly his son’s friends — told him about the last hours of his son’s life.
The renters of the house knew what he’d taken. He’d eaten lunch with them at the barbeque restaurant across the street, and it was obvious from his behavior at the restaurant that he was in trouble, Ken said. After an uncomfortable last meal, his son passed out on a couch in the blue rent house. While he was unconscious, one of his friends drew a crude shape on his face and put a video on the internet.
"His words to me were, ‘That’s what we do. It’s funny,’" Ken said on Monday.
But Josh wasn’t sleeping one off; he was dying. It was all fun and games until he stopped breathing.
One of the renters eventually took Josh to the hospital, but the damage was irreversible.
Ken started holding the sign on the streetcorner to spread a few messages. One of them was to shame the young men who let his son die on their couch. That’s worked. The renters have moved out and the blue rent house is empty these days.
Ken has known the renters for years. "At some point, I hope that those two young men can come stand with me and make some sort of an educational documentary about what happened to my son," he said.
The message that he’s also trying to get out to the several hundred college students that drive by the corner of College and Donaghey every day now that the summer break’s ended is this: If drugs are going to be part of theirs or their friends’ lives, they have to understand that the habit might kill them, he said, and act accordingly.
"They need to step up when people are in trouble, and if your going to be big enough to party like that, you’ve got to be big enough to make 9-1-1 part of that lifestyle," he said.
If the tenants of the blue rent house didn’t recognize the seriousness of someone passed out after abusing heavy narcotics, hopefully the next tenants will, if there are any. Hopefully the rest of the students in town will too.
Ken will be meeting with Hendrix College faculty this week to talk about possibly speaking to the incoming class next month, and he’s looking into what it might take to see the blue rent house property turned into a greenspace park.