[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
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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