John Howard Ahlin

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MACHIAS - John Howard Ahlin, 92, died peacefully May 12, 2013, in Machias. He was born April 21, 1921, in Worcester, Mass., the son of Eric and Ada (Anderson) Ahlin.

He graduated from Worcester schools and enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1942, serving four years in the European and Asian Theaters in World War II, as an electrician's mate first class. During his years in the service, he contracted tuberculosis and was hospitalized for two years, during which time he decided teaching would be his life's work. Majoring in history, he studied at Clark University and Harvard and received his Bachelor of Arts, Master's and Ph.D. degrees from Boston University and became a professor at both Emerson and Wheelock Colleges. While at Emerson, he met and married Marjorie Whiting in 1960, and the couple would spend their first summer in Maine that year, eventually purchasing a lakeside cabin near Machias and enjoying many summers there. During a sabbatical in Medellin, Colombia, Ahlin taught at Universidad de Antioquia. For four years he conducted an on-site South American study program in Medellin with Wheelock students. Because of his close association with Colombia, he served as chairman of Massachusetts/Antioquia Partners of the Americas Program, where he facilitated cultural exchanges between Massachusetts and Colombia. In 1976 the Ahlins and daughter, Jessie made Maine their year-round home. A noted author, educator and historian, Ahlin is widely recognized as a driving force behind many enduring volunteer programs in Washington County. Active on an early committee for Revitalization and Comprehensive Planning in Machias, he was a board member of Families United, Meals for Me and Machias Valley Sportsmen's Club. He was director of Project Alert, a substance-abuse prevention program for young people. Internationally, in addition to work in Colombia, he was a visiting professor in Karlstad, Sweden, at the Center for Public Health Research, and while in Sweden enjoyed meeting many of his distant cousins. He also taught at InterAmerican University in Puerto Rico, where the Ahlins have maintained a winter home for 28 years. Ahlin is well-known for his books, which include Maine Rubicon; The Saint's Daily Assistant: James Lyon, His Life and Meditations; and James Lyon: Patriot, Preacher, Psalmodist. Maine Rubicon, his descriptive account of downeast settlers during the American Revolution, became especially popular and is now in its fourth printing. In 1979, Ahlin and his great friend, Norman Duzen started the first Senior Companion Program east of the Mississippi River, which eventually became part of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service. Ahlin remained director of this program until his retirement from Extension in 1994, with emeritus status from the University. He received the Norman W. Duzen Community Service Award in 2011. He was an active communicant at Centre Street Congregational Church, Machias, having served as deacon, trustee and moderator.

Ahlin is survived by Marjorie, his beloved wife of 54 years; his daughter, Jessie Royall of Freeport, Texas and her companion, James Arnold Moore; nephews, John Ahlin and family of Jefferson, Mass., and David Ahlin and family of Paxton, Mass.; cousins, Harry Anderson of Manchaug, Mass., and Robert Holm of Holden, Mass.; sister-in-law, Paula Butler and husband, Kenneth, and family, of Fernandina Beach, Fla.; and very special friend, Nicole Ball of Machias.

A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at Centre Street Congregational Church, Machias, with The Rev. Dr. Eric Kelley and Pastor Betty Duzen participating. In lieu of flowers, those who wish may contribute to the John H. Ahlin Scholarship Fund, care of Jennifer Tuell, Machias Savings Bank, P.O. Box 318, Machias, ME 04654.
Published in BDN Maine on May 15, 2013
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