George von Scheven, architect

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George von Scheven, 83, a former Chestnut Hill resident, died December 4, in San Francisco, CA.  His family was at his side.

Mr. von Scheven was born in 1937, in Frankfurt am Mein, Hessen, Germany.  As a child during World War II, his family was separated to evade persecution for their opposition to Nazi policies and to avoid Allied bombing raids.  His father, Walter von Scheven, was an art director at the American advertising firm McCann Erickson in Frankfurt, and became a well-known graphic artist.  His mother, Elisabeth Charlotte von Scheven (nee Weidenreich), was imprisoned and later deported to Auschwitz.  The family, including his mother, was reunited after the war and emigrated to New York City in 1946.

Mr. von Scheven graduated from the High School of Music & Art in New York City.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Antioch College and a Masters of Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.  In 1962, Mr. von Scheven moved to Philadelphia where he began his architectural career at Vincent Kling.  From there, he worked at the City Planning Commission, for several Philadelphia architectural firms, and as a professor of architecture at Syracuse University.  He spent much of his career, from 1977 to 1999, as an architect and designer at Ewing Cole Cherry Parsky, a Philadelphia architectural and engineering firm.

Reflecting on his life, Mr. von Scheven wrote that his father taught him to draw at a very young age. This skill sustained him through his career as an architect, even as the profession transitioned from pencil to computer.  At the end of his life, despite Alzheimer’s, he remained comfortable with a pencil in his hand and continued to draw.

Like his father, Mr. von Scheven was an ardent lover of classical music, especially compositions by Bach and Beethoven.  After he retired in 1999, he served on the board of the Germantown branch of the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia.  He was an active member of the Settlement Music School community and gifted them with the design of a naturally lighted, contemporary building for the students and teachers of their Willow Grove branch.

Mr. von Scheven is remembered for his warm smile and genuine interest in people.  His breadth of knowledge across such diverse subjects as history, science, music and art made him an engaging conversationalist and connected him to those he met in his travels and at home.  He was a tinkerer and a source of endless new ideas, even if a bit unconventional.  To his daughters, he was a supportive and loving father who enjoyed spending time with his family.

Mr. von Scheven’s maternal grandfather was the noted anthropologist Franz Weidenreich, who spent many years in China and was instrumental in identifying and classifying the Peking man.

Mr. von Scheven is survived by his daughters Emily von Scheven (Mark Shostak) of San Francisco, and Anne von Scheven of Philadelphia; two grandchildren; two nieces; and a great niece.  He is also survived by his former wife, Judith von Scheven, of Philadelphia.  He was predeceased by his sister, Gisela Fort (nee von Scheven).

A memorial service will be private.  Memorial donations may be made to the Settlement Music School, 416 Queen Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19147.

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