Louise Annette Ahrens Yarnell
Former Reading social worker Louise (Nancy) Annette Ahrens Yarnell died on November 29, 2019 in Reading, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Yarnell was 101 years old.
Nancy Yarnell was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on June 4, 1918. She was the daughter of Edith Rebecca Keiser Ahrens and William Benneville Ahrens. She traveled to nursery school by horse and carriage and later attended elementary school at 16th and Hawk. At the age of eleven, her family moved to a home built by her father’s construction company. She lived in that home for nearly all of her subsequent 90 years.
Nancy attended Wyomissing Schools, graduating in 1935. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1939. After school and before the United States entered World War II, Nancy worked at a refugee camp on a farm in Nyack, New York. The camp provided refuge for those who had opposed the rise of Hitler and fled Europe. It was started by Rufus Jones, a prominent Quaker and leader of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
Supporting the AFSC was not a popular stance to take in the eyes of the “America First” supporters, who wanted the United States to stay out of the war and related activities altogether. Nevertheless, Mrs. Yarnell strongly supported the efforts of the AFSC to help people escaping fascist rule. Indeed, as her cousin William Richardson noted, this was early evidence that Mrs. Yarnell was an extraordinarily strong, devoted, and admirable woman - noble in her character.
In the early 1940s, Mrs. Yarnell obtained a Masters Degree in Social Work from Columbia University. During World War II, Mrs. Yarnell worked as a social worker at a Blue Cross hospital for severely injured soldiers. Later she returned to Reading where she worked at the Guidance Institute as a Psychiatric Social Worker.
Following the war, Mrs. Yarnell met her husband Victor, to whom she was married for sixty-six years and nine months. Once settled in Berks County, Mrs. Yarnell and her husband began a long and active career in community service. In the late 1950s, the Yarnells were actively involved in board memberships and issues related to mental health care. Nancy also participated in organizations to encourage people who were
alcoholics, who often had mental health problems, to seek treatment and pursue a life free of substance abuse.
In the 1960s, Mrs. Yarnell together with her husband and others began an organization known as the Berks Independent Democrats (BID), in order to build within a time of unrest in the late 1960s and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Mrs. Yarnell strongly supported her husband - Reading Mayor Victor Yarnell - as his administration passed an ordinance to establish the City of Reading Human Relations Commission. In addition, Mrs. Yarnell played a central role in the institution of fluoridation of the city’s water service
In the late 1960s, Mrs. Yarnell and her husband and other community leaders met at the Yarnell home to discuss the creation of a community college. The Yarnells became strong advocates of the need for the Reading Area Community College (RACC). They succeeded and several hundred thousand students have since attended RACC. Then in the late 1970s, 80s and 90s, Mrs. Yarnell together with her husband turned her energies toward cleaning up and preserving the Schuylkill River as an important natural resource. The result was the Schuylkill River Greenway Association (SRGA), of which Mayor Yarnell was the first Executive Director and Mrs. Yarnell a volunteer. She worked in this capacity for almost 23 years, obtaining the development of trails from the source of the river above Pottsville all the way to Philadelphia. Today these trails are in use by thousands for hiking and biking.
Throughout all these years, Mrs. Yarnell continued her public service in Reading and Berks County by working with the League of Women Voters and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. She dedicated her life to her family, including numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. In addition, during the 1970s and 80s, she was employed as a Supervisor for the Berks County Children and Youth Services concerning the court-ordered placement of abused children into daycare centers.
Her son Stephen Victor Yarnell and his three sons, Thomas, Colin, and David, her sister-in-law Betty Lou Lenz and her husband Peter, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins survive Mrs. Yarnell. Mrs. Yarnell was predeceased by her husband, Victor and two sons, Robert and Peter and by two sisters, Henrietta Leinbach and Edith McCoy.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, December 28, 2019 in the River Room of the Yocum Library at the Reading Area Community College, 10 South 2nd Street, Reading, Pennsylvania, from 11am – 1 p.m. Interment will be private. Contributions in memory of Mrs. Yarnell may be made to the Reading Area Community College. For online condolences please visit www.LutzFuneralHome.com
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