HAMMONTON—Chris R. Rehmann, a man who was deeply committed to his family and who served as the former president of Adams, Rehmann and Heggan (ARH) Associates, the longtime engineering firm based in Hammonton that became a thriving, regional company, died at home on February 24 at the age of 82.
According to his obituary, Rehmann passed away “Gracefully, because that’s the way he did everything.”
Rehmann is predeceased by his parents, Earl J. and Marion (Jones) Rehmann. A lifelong resident of Hammonton, Rehmann was a standout at HHS in baseball, basketball, football and band, graduating in 1958.
His crowning achievement there, however, was meeting his wife of 58 years, Loretta, his obituary said.
“We have known each other since 1957. We were in high school choir together. He was a senior, and I was a freshman. We were married for 58 years, this coming June 12 would be 58 years. He was my very best friend. He was the good cop, and I was the bad cop,” Loretta Rehmann said.
When asked about Chris Rehmann’s ability to be a calming influence, she recalled a packed contentious meeting in the cafetorium of what is now St. Joseph Academy downtown, then Hammonton Middle School.
“The auditorium was packed that night. He stood up, and I was thinking, ‘this is going to be ugly.’ He’s my husband, so I think he’s wonderful—but he calmed the room and people went away feeling good. He could do that. I always said, ‘you took a bullet for the council or the committee,’ and he would say, ‘that’s my job,’” Loretta Rehmann said.
In his professional life as an engineer and CEO of ARH, Chris Rehmann was known as an excellent leader, Loretta Rehmann recalled.
“He was a very capable engineer, and a mentor to so many engineers. He never lost his temper, didn’t raise his voice. He was very nurturing. Many employees have reached out to say how much he meant to them. People would bring him problems and he would say ‘let’s talk about the solution, let’s figure it out. He delighted in taking a young engineer out to the field and showing him ‘this is it.’ When COVID hit, that was one of his concerns, that all professions were separated. He was old-fashioned. He wanted to be hands-on,” she said.
In his personal life, he was the patriarch of his family, someone who would do anything for them, Loretta Rehmann said.
“The boys are their father, and that is such a compliment. Everything they are doing during this terrible time is what their dad would do. Chris told his doctor that he wanted to see his youngest grandchild graduate from college. I told him that we should set another goal, I said, ‘Erin’s in graduate school so maybe we should go for that.’ He would do anything for his sons, his grandchildren and me. If he said ‘yes dear’ once, he said it 10,000 times, because there was nothing he ever denied me. It was whatever I wanted. What a life we had together,” Loretta Rehmann said.
His longtime friends Carol and Arthur Orsi recalled Chris Rehmann when contacted by The Gazette on February 26.
“I truly believe that Chris Rehmann was a good man, who had so much integrity, not only in his personal life, but his professional life. He did many things for people that no one knew about. It was just under the radar. He never looked for recognition, but he was always there to provide any service, or even personal finances to help people in need. He was one of the finest men we knew. We consider Chris and Loretta our family, and we really do share in their loss and their sorrow,” Carol Orsi said.
Arthur Orsi recalled being present when Rehmann first encountered what would become a lifelong passion: orchids.
“Even though Chris was only a few years older than me, when I got to know Chris, I wanted to be like him: kind and generous to a fault. When I became the Lions District Governor in 1983, the convention was in Hawaii. So we said to Chris and Loretta, ‘Would you like to come to Hawaii?’ And we also took the DiFilippos, Joe and Sandy. When were out there, Chris became interested in orchids. From there, it developed into a passion for orchids that started in a shed, then eventually grew to two greenhouses. He became a judge with the American Orchid Society, as well as its past president and a trustee. His love of orchids took him and Loretta all over the world. For me it is like losing a brother. It is that kind of loss for me and Carol,” Arthur Orsi said.
Rehmann went on to graduate from the Drexel Institute of Technology (now Drexel University) with a B.S. in civil engineering and an M.S. in environmental engineering as a member and later a commissioned officer of the United States Public Health Service.
While at Drexel, Chris was coaxed into playing lacrosse when the team needed more players and was also a member of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.
“He still managed to graduate despite both,” his obituary said.
Rehmann served at the National Center for Air Pollution Control in Cincinnati, Ohio and then Durham, North Carolina before returning to Hammonton in 1968 to join his father in his engineering and surveying business, now Adams, Rehmann and Heggan or ARH Associates.
He grew the company with his partners from a two-car garage on Grape Street in Hammonton to a thriving, regional company built upon his values of service, community and family.
Rehmann was a consummate professional who was sought out for that professionalism, as well as for his knowledge and sincere commitment to finding the best solution for each client, his obituary said. Under his leadership, more than 400 employees were provided the opportunity to be a part of the ARH family, including his son Richard Rehmann who took the reins as Chris Rehmann segued into partial retirement and a routine that still included regular visits to the office where he was treated like the cherished patriarch he was, his obituary said.
Mayor Stephen DiDonato said the town benefited from Rehmann’s influence.
“Chris Rehmann was a class act. I mean, the man was all class. When he was out at an affair, he genuinely wanted to see people and connect with them. He was the epitome of the word ‘gentleman.’ As an engineer he and his firm always had Hammonton’s best interests at heart. He always gave us the ‘Hammonton Discount’ even though they had their own bills to pay. and remembered the town. They always put their best foot forward with Hammonton. My thoughts and prayers are with the family,” DiDonato said.
Professional planner and Director, Planning and Development for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Lance Landgraf, now a commissioner and acting mayor of the City of Ventnor also recalled Rehmann’s professionalism.
“I was sad to hear of Chris’ passing. Chris was a leader in the planning and engineering profession for many years. We first met in 1993 when I started at Aqua Terra and he of course was the president of ARH. He was extremely welcoming and helpful with projects that my firm brought to the town. He handled difficult matters with a firm but fair hand. In later years, I was able to work with Chris on both sides of development projects as he brought projects before boards that I represented. In more recent years, ARH and Chris have been one of my consultants at the CRDA. While Chris will be sadly missed, he will be remembered for the person, engineer and most importantly, the family man that he always was,” Landgraf said.
Despite a full schedule owning his own consulting firm and attending more municipal meetings than one person should ever have to, Rehmann was also active in the Presbyterian Church, serving as an elder and member of choir for more than 50 years, and was a vital member of the American Orchid Society (AOS), his obituary said.
The purchase of a single plant in Hawaii led to him becoming an accredited AOS judge, and as a member and chair of the Mid Atlantic Judging Center he went on to serve as vice president and then president of the AOS.
This led to decades of travel both within the United States and across the world, including several trips to Asia and South America. At home he was a successful grower in his own right, with many plants awarded throughout the years, including the Loretta. But for Rehmann, the AOS most importantly gave him the opportunity to cultivate friendships and relationships with wonderful people across the globe, according to his obituary.
“The AOS and the world orchid family recently lost one of its shining stars in Chris Rehmann.
Chris represented the best of us with his kindness, passion and love for orchids and all the people that enjoyed them. As a past president of the American Orchid Society and an emeritus orchid judge, an honor bestowed on very few judges, Chris provided leadership to the AOS as well as providing inspiration to the next generation of orchid growers. Chris’ passion for these wonderful flowers and skill for growing shone through as he garnered over 50 AOS judging awards including the highest award possible, a First Class Certificate on Vanda sanderiana ‘Chris’ FCC/AOS. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Chris’ wife Loretta and the rest of his family. Chris will be deeply missed,” AOS Director, Administration and Member Services Naya D. Marcano wrote in an email to The Gazette.
When he found free time, Rehmann also enjoyed years of skiing and golf, and a fascination with Civil War history, reading original firsthand accounts of the war in addition to more conventional texts. He loved piping classical music through his greenhouse as he repotted and picked mealy bugs on sunny Saturday mornings. But most of all, he loved his wife and his family., his obituary said
In addition to his wife, Loretta (nee Gazzara), Rehmann is survived by his sons Chris (Rachel Duncan) and Richard (Linda), his brother, Earl J. Rehmann (Felicia), and his four grandchildren, Emily, Jessica, Erin and Jack.
Rehmann battled cancer on several fronts for more than 20 years, a fact that was intentionally relegated to the end of his obituary rather than the beginning.
Arrangements were by the Marinella Funeral Home. His obituary said that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Chris Rehmann’s name to either the Presbyterian Church at Hammonton, 326 Bellevue Ave., Hammonton, NJ 08037, the Hammonton Cancer Foundation, PO Box 1066, Hammonton, NJ 08037, the HRC/Hammonton Heart & Soul at PO Box 1147, Hammonton, NJ 08037 or the charity of your choice.