She was the brightest light
Ashley Romero always stood out, a beautiful girl with dark hair and dark eyes born in Germany, where she lived until she was three years old. When her mother went to pick up her baby photos she found that the studio had enlarged the adorable photo to ﬁll its window.
As a little girl, Ashley was sweet and silly, yet strong—breaking boards at karate and then giggling her way off the mat. The oldest of four children, her younger brothers idolized her. Devin looked to her for guidance. If she heard her younger siblings, Jake or Lexi, cry before her mother did, Ashley would go take care of them. On the weekends the kids would make talk show videos, with Ashley as the host and her brothers and dog as guests.
The ﬁrst grandchild, Ashley was especially cherished by her grandparents. She loved spending time with them, even when she was older. As a girl, she liked going ﬁshing with her grandfathers, reading mysteries at the lake, writing stories about the family dogs, and late-night trips to roam around Walmart with her mom’s dad. She was loyal to her family and her friends, and the Denver Broncos. She had a great sense of humor and a quirky way of phrasing things—ask Ashley what time it was, and 10:50 became 50 after 10.
She loved pretty things, pretty clothes and especially pretty shoes. Ashley loved the color red—in her home, in her clothes, even in her hair. She wore big, hoop earrings and had a magnetic personality that drew people in.
As an adult, Ashley helped at her mother’s boutique, modeling in fashion shows and going on buying trips to California and New York, often getting stopped on the street with offers of free clothing to wear. She was always surprised by the attention she received, never seeing the beauty in herself that others saw in her.
Yet, what stood out the most about Ashley was her big heart. After her death, her family learned she’d been helping serve homeless people—people so touched by her compassion that they held a celebration of her life. Friends turned to her as a conﬁdant, knowing they could share whatever they were going through, without being judged.
Ashley tried to keep her own struggles to herself. She began drinking as a young adult, and eventually it went from social to addiction, affecting her body and leading to pancreatic pain. The pain she was experiencing led her to take a pill that looked real but was fake and it took her life.
Ashley was a mother. Her son, Daniel was seven when she died. Now 14, “He’s very clear in who his mother is, and how much she loved him,” Ashley’s mother, Andrea, said. Daniel takes part in prevention work on behalf of his mother, helping to share her story to save others, and bravely attended the sentencing for the drug distributor of the fentanyl-laced pill that ultimately killed Ashley.
Through her family’s advocacy work, Voices for Awareness, Ashley’s life continues to make a difference. “We started doing this work on behalf of our own child’s memory, but after seeing 1000s of other faces lost to fentanyl poisoning, and meeting all those other parents, how do you stop?” Andrea said.
“My daughter’s life was not about the alcohol or fentanyl poisoning,” she added. “That’s what took her life. She was so much more than that.”
Ashley’s mother, Andrea Thomas, provided the information for this narrative.
December 28, 1985 – June 11, 2018-Age 32
Portrait Artist: Jeremy Hebbel
Narrative Writer: Lynne Mixson