William Henry Ahrens, 91, of Vero Beach, passed away on Sept. 20, 2016.
Ahrens was born May 12, 1925, in the Swedish Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., to his parents Katherine Sophia Hashage and John Karl Ahrens. His parents, older siblings Margaret, John, and Marie, and his younger sister Nancy Elizabeth, all preceded him in death.
As a boy he was educated in New York City and in 1943 became part of the United States Army Air Corps until March 5, 1946, having served with the 331st Bomb Group of the 20th Air Force on Guam in the Southwest Pacific Theater Operations against Japan earning three battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation.
Returning to civilian life he started his college career at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I. as a Fine Arts Major. A year later he was accepted at Princeton University School of Architecture and in 1950 he received a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. He was one of 10 accepted for further study at Princeton Graduate School of Architecture, receiving a Master of Fine Arts in Architecture and Urban Planning in January 1953.
While studying for the MFA, he married Joyce Nolan in 1951, who he had known since 1943 and who was at the time, Assistant Director of Speech for the New York City Board of Education. They started married life at the University Housing Facility for graduate students on Harrison Street, know to all as “The Project”.
After graduation from Princeton he and Joyce moved to New York residing in Brooklyn Heights while Ahrens went to work for Louis Jallade at 597 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, a firm of architects specializing in school design. In 1955 he and Joyce planned a trip to Europe for the summer of 1956. Joyce, as part of the New York City Board of Education had the summer off. Ahren’s proposed absence from the firm did not sit well with the partners and he resigned. The trip was to change the course of their lives.
They sailed to Europe on the Cunard Liner, Mauretania for a summer in Europe and returned in September, Joyce to her teaching profession, while Ahrens went in search of a firm of architects with an international practice. During the summer abroad they fell in love with Rome and Italia and decided that they would like to live there for a while. (They did for 34 years.)
In the interim, Ahrens worked for Schofield and Weed, airport design specialists, and prepared for his New York State Boards and Architecture License. He was licensed in 1957 and also became a full member of the American Institute of Architects.
In 1958 he joined the firm of La Pierre Litchfield and Partners and their international affiliate, Litchfield, Whiting, Panero, Severud, also known as LWPS, with offices in Rome, Italy and Tehran, Iran. He was hired as Assistant Chief Designer for the New York Office and in March 1959 was asked to become Chief Architect for LWPS, in Tehran, Iran where he remained until November 1961 when he was assigned to the Rome, Italy office.
In 1967 he charted his own Italian Limited Company, International Consulting Services, which became Ahrens DiGrazia International, with architectural and engineering operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The scope of activity of the firm included the design and realization of hotels and resorts, educational and medical facilities, correctional institutions, industrial plants and commercial buildings. Clients were major hotel corporations, multi-national corporate groups, sovereign governments, international agencies, educational institutions as well as private citizens.
In 1955, after a successful career as CEO of his own firm, Ahrens returned to the United States in professional retirement and resided at John’s Island in Indian River Shores.
He served as Chairman of the Architectural Review Committee of the John’s Island Property Owner’s Association for six years prior to entering political life where he served as Councilman and Vice Mayor of the Town of Indian River Shores for two consecutive four year terms from 2003-2011.
During his life at John’s Island, he was preceded in death by his wife of 54 years, Joyce Nolan in 2005. Happily, with God’s grace, he married Katherine Bledsoe in Park City, Utah in 2006 and they returned to live in John’s Island, until Katherine’s untimely death in February of 2013.
He is noted in “Who’s Who in America”, “Who’s Who in the World” and is a Knight of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta.
In 1996 he was honored by His Holiness, John Paul II and made a knight of the Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great. While in Rome he was president of the American Club, Trustee of John Cabot University, Chairman of the Board of Regents of Marymount School, Recipient of the Rector’s Award of the North American Pontifical College, Architect of the University of Dallas, Rome Campus, Architect to the American Embassy to the Holy See, Jurist to the Rhode Island School of Design, Rome and Interviewer of Foreign Student Applicants to Princeton University.
He is the author of three books, “Parioli to Aventino,” “Expatriates Abroad,” and “Letters To Katie” which are illustrative of his career and life abroad.
He was a member of the John’s Island Club, The metropolitan Club of New York, The Circolo del Golf di Roma, and The Princeton Clubs of New York and Vero Beach.
Please omit flowers. Memorials can be made to the Indian River Medical Center Foundation, 1000 36th St., Vero Beach, Fl. 32960.
Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., Sept. 23, 2016, at Strunk Funeral Home, 916 17th Street, Vero Beach, with a Prayer Vigil to begin at 6:30 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 10 a.m., Sept. 24, 2016 at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 500 Iris Lane, Vero Beach.
A reception at the John’s Island Club will follow immediately after the mass. Interment will be in the John’s Island Cemetery at a later date.
Arrangements are under the direction of Strunk Funeral Home, Vero Beach.
An online guestbook is available at www.strunkfuneralhome.com.