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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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May 18, 2022

12/31/2021 5:29:00 AM
Robert "Bob" Thomas Aho

Robert "Bob" Thomas Aho, loving and beloved husband, father, and grandfather, age 82, of Rhinelander passed away on Dec. 24, 2021, after a long illness. Born Sept. 27, 1939, in Superior, to John and Christine (Pensak) Aho, he grew up on the family homestead near Brookston, Minn., and attended Brookston High School, where he played clarinet in the band as well as varsity football and baseball. He was also an active member and winner of the Future Farmers of America state award for "Farm Mechanic of the Year," an early indication of his wide variety of interests and talents. After high school, Bob attended the University of Minnesota, Duluth, majoring in music on a first-year scholarship. After his scholarship year, he earned money to continue his education by cutting and skinning pulpwood and earned a BS in Music Education in 1961. During his college years, Bob played bassoon in the Duluth Symphony Orchestra. He later was awarded his Master's Degree from the University of Wisconsin, Superior.

Bob met his future wife, Ruth, at UMD, where they both played clarinet in the college band. Their first date, fittingly, was a Duluth Symphony concert on March 11, 1960 - a date they commemorated throughout their nearly 61 years together. Bob and Ruth were married in Gilbert, Minn. on July 21, 1962.

Bob's long career as a music teacher began in Solon Springs, where he was responsible for all grade K through 12 music education, and also found time to direct a Duluth church choir. In 1962, the Ahos moved to Hinckley, Minn., where Bob taught high school instrumental music and again, directed a church choir. The Ahos moved to Rhinelander in 1965, when Bob was hired to start the first band and choral music program at James William Middle School. During his years there, Bob was pleased to regularly receive trophies, plaques, banners, cards, letters, and other gifts from his graduating 8th graders. He taught thousands of students, and always took great joy in seeing "his kids" while running errands or attending concerts in Rhinelander and further afield.

Bob directed the Nicolet Male Chorus, Immanuel Lutheran Church Choir, Trinity Lutheran Church Choir, and Nicolet College Learning in Retirement chorus. He taught a music appreciation class at Nicolet College and also served as an adjudicator for statewide music contests for many years.

Besides his musical interests, Bob excelled at carpentry of all kinds, taking on a multitude of remodeling projects at the Aho's home. In his immaculate basement workshop, he built crossbuck doors, kitchen cabinetry, furniture, shelves, clocks, and picture frames, and created and executed plans for a garage, boathouse and garden shed. His garden plot provided vegetables, raspberries, and flowers, and his extensive plantings on the home's wraparound back deck overlooking the lake were always spectacular.

Bob's interest in photography and nature, especially wildflowers, came together in a multi-year project of traveling with Ruth throughout Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, hunting for and photographing sometimes very rare wild orchids - 38 of the 40 different varieties that grow in these states. He loved the outdoors, especially quiet pursuits like bowhunting, fishing, and canoeing with Ruth, enjoying God's beautiful creation. Their favorite destination was the Rainbow Flowage, where they spotted a myriad of eagles, other birds, and wildlife.

Bob enjoyed baking bread for family and friends, as well as the church bazaar. He loved a baking challenge moving on from cakes, cookies, and muffins to Danish kringle, French croissants, and Finnish tarts.

The great joy of Bob's life was being a dad to his three children, and grandpa to his five grandchildren. He loved playing with the kids and found ways to make chores like raking leaves and stacking firewood into games and competitions. Bob loved puns and Spoonerisms (like "belly jeans" instead of "jelly beans") and compiled a list of over a thousand puns he hoped to someday publish.

Bob and Ruth were active members of Trinity Lutheran Church where Bob taught Sunday school, directed the Trinity Lutheran Church Choir, helped with remodeling projects, and led vacation Bible school for several years. Ruth and Bob started a volunteer program called Faith in Action, which grew to 123 volunteers at its peak, helping up to 40 people each month with rides, visits and phone calls, meals, yard work, housework, respite care, and shopping. They found great joy in helping others for the ten years they led this volunteer effort.

Preceded in death by his parents, Bob is survived by his wife, Ruth; three children, Dave Aho, Eau Claire; Paul (Bridgette) Aho, Westmont, Ill.; Chris (Eric) Borchert, Deerbrook; grandchildren Nathan, Andrew, and Michael Aho and Erin and Aimee Borchert; sister Sally Dangelo, Poulsbo, Wash.; nieces Suzanne Alexander and Elizabeth Dangelo, and nephew Christopher Dangelo.

The family would like to thank the staff of Friendly Village Nursing Home for their love and care of Bob over the years.

Visitation for Bob was held on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Carlson Funeral Home. Funeral services for Bob will be held on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021 at 11 a.m. at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. You may leave your private condolences for the Aho family at

The Carlson Funeral Home (715-369-1414) is serving the Aho family.

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, January 4, 2022
Article comment by: Sharon Reno

Mr. Aho was my band instructor in 1965 and I too played clarinet, even though I had “braces” to correct my crooked teeth! Guess we needed clarinet players!
I’ll never forget the “band room” in the windowless room in our old junior high, and his special and gentle instructions.
He was memorable.
My Best to his wife Ruth and family. So sorry for your loss.
Sincerely, Sharon Reno

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