Ahlness, Robert Lewis
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Robert was born June 24, 1923 to Louis and Amy Ahlness in Miles City, MT. He grew up in Lemmon, SD, near the Black Hills. He left this world on October 21, 2013, in Ithaca, NY with his daughter and son-in-law at his side. Robert had lived with Alzheimer's at Beechtree Care center since 2008. His family is very grateful for the many people there who loved him. With the only case of diphtheria in South Dakota in 1934, Robert briefly left this world. As the doctors pronounced him dead, his mother cajoled him back to life. As with many who have seen the light that comes with leaving this world, his Life was devoted to serving those less fortunate. His first observations of poverty and injustice were as a young boy living among the Lakota Sioux during the Great Depression, when many froze or starved during the harsh winters. In 1946, Robert married the absolute love of his life, Audrey Lorange Ahlness, who predeceased him in 2008. They are survived by their three children: David, of Seattle, Mark (Janeanne Houston) of Seattle, and Kristin (Greg Thomas) Ahlness of Ithaca, NY, in addition to many nephews and nieces in the Midwest. Robert assisted his father with the Ahlness Men's Store in Staples, MN, and he was later a Lutheran church administrator in Minot, North Dakota. In 1961, the family moved east so his eldest son could attend the American School of the Deaf in Hartford, CT. He was then New England General Agent for Lutheran Brotherhood, and later, with Mass Mutual, all during his 45 years at 45 Castle Road in Manchester, CT. Robert's life passion was service. He was past President of the Connecticut Council of Churches, he formed the Interracial Council in Manchester, was an active member of the Sons of Norway, and helped conceive the Manchester Arts Council. He worked tirelessly for those less fortunate, connecting early with Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He marched with Cesar Chavez and dined with Coretta Scott King. He presented awards to Liv Ullman and Dick Brown (fellow Norwegians) for their work toward a more peaceful planet. Robert and Audrey were very active at Emanuel Lutheran church, and opened their home and hearts to all people, especially those in need. Two special "family" members were added in the '70's: Ute Mrkwicka, a German exchange student; and Sonny Doan, then a Vietnamese refugee, now a resident of E. Hartford, CT. A lifelong lover of music, Robert was an accomplished clarinetist, and had a beautiful bass voice. Dad, we thank you for all you taught us, for the love you gave us, and for the gifts you left for the rest of the world. Rest in well-deserved peace. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, October 24 at St Luke's Lutheran Church, 109 Oak Ave, Ithaca. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to St Luke's, Beechtree Care Center, or Emanuel Lutheran Church, 60 Church St. Manchester, CT 06040
Published in Ithaca Journal on Oct. 23, 2013