"Concerned with the General Welfare of the Deaf of Iowa"

Updated July 4, 2017


Henry Lester Ahls

November 5, 1926 - August 19, 2015


Former Iowa resident Henry Lester Ahls, 88, died Wednesday, August 19 at Covered Bridge Health Care Center in Seymour, Indiana. Mr. Ahls was born November 5, 1926, in Pettibone, North Dakota, to Henry and Mary Alice Scott Ahls.

Lester, as many knew him more fondly, became deaf at the age of 8. He attended The Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan, WI. Following his high school graduation at age 16, he attended Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C. He then moved to Waterloo, Iowa and began working 41 years as a butcher at Rath Meat Packing Plant. He met his wife of nearly 55 years, Betty Ames, at a dance in Des Moines, Iowa. After a short courtship, they were married September 3, 1960. Eight years later, they adopted their daughter, Nancy. The following year, they adopted another daughter, Glenda. Lester enjoyed fishing, hunting pheasant, target shooting, admiring Classic Cars, and, with his wife, entering dance contests.

Lester grew up knowing what it meant to come from a family of little means as his family endured through the depression. He fondly recalls his father sending the boys out to find turtles for turtle soup and hunting squirrel for dinner. The foundation from his family is what shaped him in his faith and later, in his leadership abilities, even with the challenges of becoming deaf. Lester spent most of his life serving others. He taught Bible classes for the deaf all over eastern Iowa for more than 25 years. He was a member and leader for the International Lutheran Deaf Association, serving as secretary, President-elect, and President. He served as officer and President for the Iowa Association of the Deaf. Lester also served as editor for The Deaf Lutheran and The Sign Language publications, was appointed to the Governor's Deaf Advisory Committee, board member of Deaf Services of Iowa, Cedarloo Association of the Deaf, and worked with numerous other organizations, which served to help others, especially with the hearing-impaired and deaf community. He was awarded several life-time achievement awards including the National Association of the Deaf Golden Handshake, induction in the Hall of Fame at his alma mater, ILDA Leadership award, and the Iowa Governor's Award.

As a man who grew up with very little and with challenges which could have limited him, he knew he had the most abundant life possible through following Christ. Even though he spent much of his life working towards providing a better future for others, he will be quick to remind anyone that his work was completely out of his love for his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He knew very well he was a sinner whose life was not perfect in any way and that all his work would be for naught if not for what his Savior did at the Cross and empty tomb. None of Lester's efforts would earn him a place in Heaven or even entrance through Heaven's gates if not for the love his Savior had for him. As a child of God, he only desires others to know the hope of eternal life, which can only come through belief in Jesus as their Savior, "not by works which no man can boast."

Lester is survived by his wife, two brothers, William Lloyd Ahls and James E. Ahls; two daughters, Nancy (Tom "Digger") Franke of Seymour and Glenda Ahls of Greenwood, Arkansas; and 7 grandchildren: Ben, Rachel, Matthew, Daniel, Rebekah, Gabrielle, and Zeth. He was preceded in death by his parents and his grandsons, Timothy and Jonathan Franke and Hunter Ahls.

Funeral Services was held at Peace Lutheran Church on Sunday, August 23, at 4:00pm. Following services, a celebration reception of Lester's final victory over disabilities, sickness, and death, was held at Burkholder Funeral Chapel in Seymour, Indiana from 5:00pm - 8:00pm. At his request, instead of anyone grieving, he wants everyone to celebrate in their hearts that he is finally at the best celebration ever - the Banquet Table of his Lord, in heaven. Please join the family in this celebration. Inurnment followed at a later date in his hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa. Lester asked ahead of time, in lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to Iowa District East LCMS for Ministry to the Deaf, Peace Lutheran Church's Building Fund, or the International Lutheran Deaf Association. - Mission Project. His final legacy was to be able to support these organizations nearest to his heart.

Thanks to Burkholder Funeral Home and Chapel, Seymour, Indiana and Jon Holland for the information.