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Overlooking the scenic lawns of Ashford Manor, where children in colonial attire frolicked and adults scanned century-old photographs, Dave Shearon spoke proudly of Oconee’s first history festival, proclaiming, “People are making history just by being here.” 

This scene from 2014 was one of countless community events held at Ashford Manor Bed & Breakfast under the direction of Shearon and his husband, Mario Castro, over the course of two decades. 

Shearon, a philanthropist, community leader and former mayor of Watkinsville, died Friday, June 17 following a battle with cancer. He was 70.  

In 1997, his family moved from Chicago to Watkinsville “because we saw a small town that had a lot of heart and soul,” he once told The Oconee Enterprise. Their Victorian home quickly transformed into a venue for fundraisers, the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation’s Wine Fest, Shakespeare theatre, concerts on the lawn and the backdrop for 572 weddings.

“It was one of the huge economic drivers in our community,” said Oconee Commissioner Amrey Harden.

“The countless events that he and Mario hosted made Watkinsville a destination for people all over this area,” said friend Lee Morgan. “He was a huge resource for our town and played a big part in making it a great place to live.”  

One of Shearon’s favorite aphorisms was that “being a good business is being a good community citizen.” 

“It’s a responsibility to participate in the place that you live,” he once said. “In a town like this, that’s what makes it a desirable place.”

“Dave may have been born in Chicago, but he was the embodiment of Southern hospitality,” said Rachel Marshall, who worked at Ashford Manor and whose friendship with Shearon spans 25 years. “He quite literally walked into this town and opened the doors to his home, his story and his life and never looked back.” 

For more on this story, see the June 23 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website. 

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