Henry Albert Pahl

July 6, 1930 ~ November 30, 2020 (age 90)

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Henry Albert Pahl left this world on November 30 at age 90.  The cause of death was old age.  Also known as Hank by friends near and far, he was a Chicago native and child of the Great Depression, the only child of Hedwig (née Ebel) and Heinrich Wilhelm Pahl, both immigrants from Germany.  Thanks to their hard work and perseverance during the Great Depression, Hank was fortunate to grow up in the family-owned two-flat on Barry Avenue in the delicious proximity of the Reed Candy Factory.  He attended Morris Elementary School and then proceeded to Lane Technical High School, where he rowed with the Lane crew at the Lincoln Park Boat Club and participated in the German Club.  The values he learned as a Boy Scout with Troop 892 served him well throughout his long life and far-flung travels.  His early work experience was a job at the Chicago Public Library branch of Books for the Blind, where he would check in and out various “talking books” that had been recorded on phonograph records.  From an early age he knew he wanted to become an electrical engineer, and a class at Lane where he made a soldering iron sealed the deal.   After graduation from Lane, he took up studies in Electrical Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  He first lived at home on Barry Ave. and commuted via the streetcar down to IIT, then lived at the Theta Xi fraternity house.  To pay the tuition, he worked in the cafeteria making sandwiches.  One of his many stories (also called his “Hank talks”) told of learning the craft of sandwich making after being sent to the Berghof to watch how to artfully create a great sandwich.  Aa legend has it, his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were most famous!      

As a fraternity brother, he attended various dances where the girls were (of course).  At one such dance, he met the love of his life, Arlette Julia Smith, who was in nurses’ training at Evangelical Hospital.   Upon graduation in June 1952 with a BSEE, he joined the US Navy as a degaussing officer on the USS Ampere (ADG 11).  After posting to San Diego, he was joined by Arlette and daughter Leslie, who was followed by daughter April.  In 1954 he was posted to the U.S. Naval Base at Sasebo, Japan, where Hank and Arlette and daughters lived off-base in private housing and experienced life in Japan in a more authentic way.   After discharge from the Navy (though he remained in the Navy Reserves), Hank joined Westinghouse as a field service engineer, working in local steel mills such as Northwestern Steel & Wire and US Steel, South Works.  From Rototrols to thyristors, from solid state logic and power to incoming transformers and switchgears, Hank was an expert equipment engineer, an expertise that would serve him well later in his “second act”. 

After assignments designing and supervising installation of steel mill drive systems, Hank was ready for a truly life-altering assignment in Slovenia, Yugoslavia.  The entire family, now with Bethany and Michelle, moved to Maribor in 1967, where the girls attended school, learned Slovene, and Arlette negotiated with aplomb running a household in a completely new environment.   Henry was the general management engineer at the IMPOL aluminum mill in Slovenska Bistrica, where he oversaw the installation of electrical systems.  In 1969, they returned to the U.S. and moved to Park Ridge, Illinois where Henry worked at Laramore, Douglass and Popham and then United Conveyor Corporation.   In 1976, Westinghouse offered him a position in Pittsburgh, PA where Henry enthusiastically joined the Teutonia  Männerchor.  This led to enjoyable rehearsals at the Teutonia Club and European travels with the Männerchor.   In 1988, Hank retired from Westinghouse, moved back to Chicago and started his “second act”: giving electrical safety training classes for new service engineers in places near (across the United States) and far (Borneo, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Singapore).  He and Arlette traveled extensively, with a favorite journey being on the Orient Express.   During early morning walks with faithful terrier companions Mollie and Cali, he collected cans in the neighborhood and donated the proceeds from recycling to the United Church of Rogers Park, where he was a 30+ year stalwart member of the congregation.  He could be counted on to lend a hand with repairs, electrical wiring, pancake breakfasts and, on occasion, the New To You Thrift Store.  For many years he was also a member of the Rheinischer Gesangverein, where he enjoyed a fine camaraderie with his fellow singers.    

All in all, Henry Albert Pahl lived life well and to the fullest, with devotion to family, profession and community in even measure.  In his later years, when not traveling with Arlette to visit new places and children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, he would do handiwork and repair on the building on N. Francisco Avenue, with Clark-Devon Hardware being a favorite destination.  After selling the N. Francisco building, he found a safe haven at Covenant Home of Chicago, where he enjoyed “three square meals a day” and found a congenial community of active seniors.  He enjoyed reading the Hamish Macbeth mysteries, histories of navigation, seafaring, mapmaking, and any book about Nikola Tesla. And what would afternoons be without Jeopardy! and Perry Mason?   He is predeceased by his wife, Arlette J. Pahl (2015) and daughters April Leigh Pahl (Ian) and Bethany Maria Pahl (Edgar/Starr).  He is survived by daughters Leslie (Michael) and Michelle Pahl, grandchildren Ursula, Emma, Rosie and Roland, and great-granddaughters April, Lemoni, and Grace.  He will be missed by long-time and new friends.  His family will greatly miss his “Hank talks” about his travels, Nikola Tesla, and the finer points of electrical systems.  Not to mention his sardonic sense of humor.  The punch line to an oft-told tale was: “But sir, there was no traffic.”  Go figure.  Have a toast to Hank’s memory with a shot of Jägermeister!   In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in his memory to the VFW, the Humane Society of the United States, or the United Church of Rogers Park.  A memorial service will be held at a later date.  Internment of ashes will be at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, where he will be together with Arlette once again.                      

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