Dr. Richard A. "Dick" AHLBECK Ph.D.

Obituary
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AHLBECK Dr. Richard A. Ph.D. "Dick" Dr. Richard A. "Dick" Ahlbeck, Ph.D., passed away April 19, 2012, in New York City, aged 86. Dick grew up on a small farm in Somerville, New Jersey. His father Harry was a WWI Navy vet, star basketball player and chief engineer at the Bakelite Corp., later a subsidiary of Union Carbide. Harry, who later worked as an aerospace engineer in California, flew his single engine airplane to and from work each day from his own landing strip in the field behind the family home. The family was of German (Prussian), Swedish and Danish stock, from the northern German coastal resort town of Ahlbeck, on the Baltic Sea - once a favorite summer vacation destination of the German Kaiser and other European nobility. Dick was something of a math and science prodigy. He first attended the University of Michigan at age 16 (photo), where he assisted with research related to the Manhattan Project. Dick was a powerful and competitive athlete. He trained for the Olympic decathlon prior to entering the Navy to serve as an electronics and communications specialist (radio, radar and sonar) in the South Pacific (Guam) until the end of WWII. He later earned advanced degrees in math and physics and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the U of M. He loved classical and jazz music, played piano, clarinet and sax, was a member of the U of M marching band and also played in his own New York jazz band with his older brother Bill. Dick worked in early plastics and blow molding manufacturing technology and other diverse products and technologies as a chemical engineer and consultant with various Fortune 500 corporations. He traveled widely and was involved in research conferences and product development with several overseas firms in Japan, Germany, the former Soviet Union, Central America and elsewhere. He was a voracious reader (Great Books, Harvard Classics etc. - from science, history, philosophy, politics and economics to great literature, poetry and John le Carré spy novels). He was a lifelong polymath, health enthusiast and environmental activist. He expressed very early and outspoken public opposition to the American Vietnam War, which brought him no small amount of social backlash at the time. Dick had the privilege of knowing a number of prominent financial, business, military and political leaders in New York and Washington, as well as various leading musicians, scholars and scientists, including his lifelong friend, the late John Mack, principal oboist with the Cleveland Symphony (who mentored Dick's niece, Laura Ahlbeck, principal oboist with the Boston Pops Orchestra), Albert Einstein (at Princeton) and the late great Nobel Laureate biochemist, Linus Pauling. Dick lectured on the orthomolecular medicine of Pauling and others in China. Dick was an avid golfer. He played for many years at the Inverness Country Club, where his handicap approached scratch and where he won the 1963 Member's Derby with his then brother-in-law, the late Dr. Harry Cameron Mack. He also enjoyed playing competitive squash at the Toledo Club and Chicago Lakeshore Club and tennis at Inverness and at the family vacation home in Wequetonsing, Michigan. He loved the serenity and stillness of the pristine northern Michigan outdoors. During his later years in New York, Dick enjoyed trips abroad, attending lectures, symphony concerts, the theater and opera and playing chess and bridge with friends at the Harvard Club in Manhattan. He also enjoyed attending regular reunions with his U of M Tau Beta Pi Engineering fraternity brothers. Dick loved life and people and knowledge and excellence and competition and adventure and organizing and having fun. He relished the finer things - good friends, music, dancing, food - and fine women, whiskey and cigars. Dick was predeceased by his parents, Harry and Etta Ahlbeck; brothers, William and Donald; (both also engineers) and by his former wife, Vangie "Ann" Mack-Bourdeau. He is survived by his two sons, Reid (Mary) and Jay (Mailet) Ahlbeck, and four grandchildren. A private ceremony will be held at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D. C.

Published in Toledo Blade on Apr. 29, 2012
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