A Short Tribute to My Neighbor, Denfield Aska

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By Susan Mann

Denfield Aska. St. John Tradewinds News Photo by Susan Mann

Old “Aska” left the simple island life, the Mooie’s bunch, and his neighbors at Cruz Bay Apartments behind on Tuesday afternoon, July 10. He had many, many friends and acquaintances here on St. John. Aska passed away at the hospital on St. Thomas after a long illness.

When I met him nearly two years ago, it was clear that his health was declining. Aska had difficulty speaking and his voice was so weak that I doubted I would ever really get a chance to know him. I am glad I was wrong about that, and I did get the time to be his neighbor, and his friend.

If you drove past Mooie’s at dusk and the doors were open, chances are you saw him sitting in “his chair” on the corner. If you happened to get there first and sit in “his chair,” Aska was known to stand there until you got up and let him sit down. After all, it was “his chair.”

A few times my Chihuahua, Pepper, and I sat at Mooie’s with Aska. It was quite impressive to see the number and variety of people, of all ages and backgrounds, who stopped either on foot, or in their vehicles to “check” Aska. Mostly he just acknowledged everyone by giving them one of his “presidential waves.” I slowly began to understand why Aska’s daily strolls to Mooie’s, which became harder and harder for him to manage, were so important to him. He could drink at home any time, but look what he would miss out on!

Aska never lost his sense of humor. Late this winter I saw him on his deck caring for his plants. I asked him if he needed anything from the store. Seizing the moment I also added, “Want me to bring you back a new wife?” He responded with, “dems trouble!”
A couple of days later when I saw Aska he asked me if I had brought him anything from the store. I apologized, and told him I thought he said he didn’t need anything, and offered to go to the store for him.

Aska looked me in the eye and commented, “I thought you was going to bring me a woman!”

That Aska! I wanted to give him a hug, but he was so frail I didn’t dare. He sure “got me good,” though.

Folks will sure miss Aska. Last Christmas I heard someone standing outside our apartment building calling out to Aska. It would have been a real stretch for Aska to raise his voice loudly enough to respond, and taken him quite a while to get up the stairs to talk directly with the individual.

The undaunted potential holiday guest finally exclaimed, “You may not answer me, Aska, but I still love you anyway!”
Many on St. John may well experience that same sentiment at this time. Others will sit in Aska’s place at Mooie’s, but it will always be his chair.