[Sayma-Discuss] From Swannanoa Valley

Quakerkristi at aol.com Quakerkristi at aol.com
Mon Oct 22 17:56:30 EDT 2007

 Oscar Christian Ahrens, Jr.
Black Mountain, NC

Oscar Christian (Chris) Ahrens, Jr., died peacefully at the age of  91
on Oct. 14, 2007, with Olga (Ollie), his beloved wife of 60 years, at  his
side, at their Highland Farms apartment.  A hospice nurse had been  with him
all day.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two  sons: Paul Ahrens of
Bloomington, Ill., and Glenn Ahrens, of Broomall, Pa.;  two grandchildren:
Bretton Ahrens and Gramm Ahrens, and a great-grandchild,  Quentin Hancock.
The son of Oscar Christian and Carrie Butcher Ahrens,  Chris was born on
July 21, 1916 in the Bronx, New York City.  He earned  a B.A. degree in civil
engineering at New York University, and a master¹s  degree in community
planning from Goddard College.
During his long  lifetime, Chris passionately pursued his goal of helping
to improve the lives  of people and the planet.  His focus and work included
anti-poverty  projects, low cost and self-help housing, better
transportation, health  needs, conservation, sustainable living, preservation
of the environment,  peace and other Quaker values.
During World War II, as a believer in  non-violence, Chris was a
conscientious objector.  He did alternative  service from 1942-45 under the
supervision of the American Friends Service  Committee (AFSC).  This included
work with a reforestation project in  Cooperstown, N.Y., with the Fish and
Wildlife Commission in Maryland,  directing privy construction to help
prevent parasitic disease in an Orlando,  Fla., swamp land, and in Puerto
Chris and Olga Mae Quadland  were married in June, 1947, in New York City
and spent their honeymoon  directing a Quaker work camp in an Indian village
in Mexico.  Thus began  their lifetime of service together.
When Chris and Ollie got married,  they made a vow never to be held down by
possessions, so as to be open to  service leadings and callings.  After their
sons were born, their first  calling came from the mission board of the
Congregational Church to work in  Ryder Hospital in Humacao, Puerto Rico,
where Chris supervised the building  of the first practical nurses training
school and the building of a number of  houses, using ³green technology².
After a short stay with Chris as  engineering manager at Mohonk Mountain
House in New Paltz, New York, the  Ahrens joined The Bruderhof, an
intentional poverty community in Rifton,  N.Y.
In 1961 Chris was invited to join the newly formed Peace  Corps, working
in Colombia, South America, assisting and overseeing technical  projects that
the volunteers were engaged in.  He next was asked to join  the Foundation of
International Cooperative Housing, which led him and Ollie  to many projects
in Central America and finally, Charleston, W.Va.
A few years later, the Office of Economic Opportunity (O.E.O.--the  federal
anti-poverty program) asked Chris to join a newly formed STAP program  of
specialists serving the needs of low-income people around the  country.  His
specialty in low-income housing led him and Ollie to many  parts of
Appalachia, the Virgin Islands, upstate New York and New  Jersey.
A trip to Washington, D.C., opened up an invitation to become  part of the
program of the World Bank, examining protocols for World Bank  projects with
an eye to appropriate technology.  This subsequently led  Chris to Sri Lanka,
and both of them to Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Kenya for  projects in building
housing and schools, using local labor and  materials.
In 1981, Chris received a call from Warren Wilson College  to prepare an
international service program for students.  His programs  were developed and
supervised by the Ahrens in Central America and Botswana,  Africa.  Later
Warren Wilson invited Chris to teach a course in  appropriate technology and
Ollie, a course in mathematics.
In the  words of Ollie, ³Chris Ahrens was way ahead of his time.  In all
his  work, Chris continually introduced elements of what is now called  Œgreen
In 1995 the Ahrens moved to Highland Farms  Retirement Community in Black
Mountain, N.C., where his health eventually  declined.  But, as Ollie said,
³Chris never gave up planning programs  and creating new ideas for better
transportation and appropriate housing,  even to the last week of his life.
His passion never left.²
Ahrens  was a member of the Swannanoa Valley Friends Meeting, where a
collection of  papers and books representing his interests and work is housed
in the library  and available for use.
Throughout their life together, Chris and  Ollie associated with and
helped establish Quaker worship groups and  meetings, in Mexico, Colombia,
St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, Charleston,  W.Va., and Puerto Rico.  They
were members or attenders at Friends  meetings in Westbury, L.I., Florida
Avenue Meeting in Washington, D.C.,  Elmira, N.Y., College Park, Md.,
Asheville, N.C., and Swannanoa Valley  Friends in Black Mountain, N.C.
Ollie expressed her immense gratitude  for all the support of friends,
family and Hospice.  At the beginning  she instructed Hospice to "Let Love be
the guiding light."
A  memorial service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 3 p.m. in the
Highland  Farms Assembly Room, Black Mountain.  In lieu of flowers, the
family  suggests that memorial gifts be made to the John F. Keever Solace
Center,  P.O. Box 5779, Asheville, NC. 28813 or the Swannanoa Valley Friends
Meeting,  P.O. Box 1032, Black Mountain, N.C. 28711.

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