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Community, beyond mourn Ahrens' death

In March 2014, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District heard oral arguments in Hannibal, and afterwards answered questions from those in attendance. Pictured are, from left, Judge Roy Richter, Mary Russell, serving as chief justice for the Missouri Supreme Court, Judge Robert Clayton III, Judge Cliff Ahrens, and Judge Gary Gaertner. The men were all members of the Court of Appeals. File photo by Mary Lou Montgomery, then editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post.


With The Honorable Cliff Ahrens’ passing on May 22, 2024, Hannibal in particular, and the Eastern District of Missouri in general, lost a valuable citizen.

Born in Hannibal in 1945, Ahrens spent all but his college years in his hometown, participating in community betterment and humanitarian work.

In 1968, he was married to his high school and college sweetheart, Kimberly Ann Robison. After earning a law degree from the University of Missouri in 1969, and passing the Missouri Bar Exam, they came back to Hannibal, and he joined a local law firm to begin his life-long role in the pursuit of justice.

Ahrens was appointed to the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District in 1991, by then-Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft. He retired from that role in 2015, but continued to serve as senior judge with the courts on a part-time basis.

Judge Robert M. Clayton III, who served with Judge Ahrens on the Appellate Court, said of his colleague, “Judge Ahrens was respected by the entire judiciary as a legal expert, a cutting edge advocate of new technologies and as a true gentlemen.”

Judge Clayton described Judge Ahrens as a mentor and a leader.

“Judge Ahrens was missed when he left the Court, and even more so in his untimely passing. He was just a great person with a wonderful family.”

The Honorable Mary Russell, chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, was first named to the Appellate Court during Judge Ahrens’ tenure there.

“Personally,” she said, “Judge Ahrens was always very kind to me, especially in helping me transition to the court of appeals.

“Judge Ahrens was a highly respected, intelligent and collegial judge,” she said. “He was beloved by everyone who was fortunate to know him.

“In addition to his outstanding contributions to the jurisprudence at the court of appeals,” Judge Russell said, “Judge Ahrens is best known in Missouri’s judiciary for his pioneering efforts to enhance technology in the courts statewide.  He was an inaugural member and later chair (2002-2015) of the Missouri Court Automation Committee, a statutory committee charged with implementing a statewide judicial automation system.  Because of his valuable leadership, The Supreme Court of Missouri created an award in his honor, The Honorable Clifford Ahrens  Excellence in Technical Advancements, to be given annually to a member of the judicial family for outstanding contributions in court technology.”

“My heart goes out to Kim, Todd, Ann, Joe and their families,” Judge Russell said.

While the law and its application were Judge Ahrens’ vocation, there were other aspects to his life. His avocation could be considered to be that of a ham radio operator. As a long-time member of the Hannibal Amateur Radio Club, as well as former Midwest Region director of the American Radio Relay League, he took part in many activities associated with this organization.

During the annual Field Day events, held annually the last full weekend of June, he was considered to be among the top of the Morse Code operators. “Every year he was there doing it,” said Don Vary, who stepped down last December, after 11 years as club president.

One of the things that amateur radio operators do is to act as storm spotters. “I’m the county coordinator,” Vary said. The volunteer spotters live all over the county. “If, for example, they see something is coming toward Monroe City, I report it to the National Weather Bureau. We are like an early warning system.” Cliff, who had a base station in his home, “was very in to that.”

“During the years I was president, Cliff was always a sounding board to me. He gave me a fresh perspective. If I had a question, I picked his brain. I will miss that greatly,” Vary said.

After learning the news about Judge Ahrens' death, “I sent messages (via amateur radio) to our state people. They expressed that he will be greatly missed.”


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