Ashok Dhingra 1946 – 2016: An Architect of Community Togetherness Passes

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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: When he was just an architectural student at the University of Houston, the thin 26 year-old young man from India already stood out for two things that stayed with him throughout his life: an easy and infectious smile and laugh and a thick and wide chevron moustache that covered the top border of his upper lip. Ashok Dhingra never got rid of it nor his laugh. His habit of short nasal snorts, clenching of eyes and rounding of the shoulders usually meant that he was going to let loose another funny witticism.

Dhingra passed away last Friday, June 3, 2016 at 6:24am at St. Luke’s Hospital where he been taken last December for a dangerously low platelet count that eventually made his liver fail and then his kidneys too. He received transplants for those organs and was on the mend when suddenly two weeks ago he had two subcranial hematomas or strokes that left him in a coma from which he did not recover. Dhingra was 69, just shy of his 70th birthday on June 29.

Dhingra was born in Maghiana, West Punjab in 1946 before the Partition of India. His family moved to India and he started architecture school there before venturing to the US to continue. He came to Houston in 1972 and completed his Bachelors in Architecture in 1976 at the University of Houston. During that time, he was involved with the India Students Association and helped with the activities held at the University – like weekend movies at Agnes Arnold Hall – arranged by the small group of Indian families in the city.

Upon graduating, Dhingra worked at Brown and Root, and then went back home to get married to Vijay on July 18, 1980. They started a family together and in October 1985, Vijay opened up a small biosciences business and soon after it grew, Ashok joined in too. It has since become a distributor of laboratory, chemical and industrial equipment & supplies with products exported around the world. In 2000, the company moved to its large office and warehouse space on Rockley Road off South Wilcrest. Each year, Dhingra would delight in holding a Christmas party for his friends, employees and associates at the large back warehouse area and he would gleefully hand out bonuses and awards to his employees.

Very mindful of his Indian and Hindu heritage, Dhingra stayed involved with community activities and was a supporter of many organizations and events. He served as a Director and President of the India Culture Center. His architectural background helped immensely when the plans for India House were being developed and he worked ceaselessly to manage the construction through the opening day. He was a founding board member, and eventually became an early President of India House and left to return full time to his growing business. He was also a regular supporter of the Arya Samaj of Houston.

But above all, Dhingra was a family man who adored his children and three grandchildren. He is survived by his wife, Vijay; daughter Anu and husband Manav Malik and kids Armaan and Meera; daughter Nikki and husband Manmeet Vedi and daughter Veera; and son Abhishek and wife Avni.

He was much admired for his straight forward style and disciplined approach to issues and life in general. He was generous to his friends and showed such caring that many were immediately drawn to him. The extent of the way he cultivated his relationships showed in the mass outpouring of grief as nearly 400 people arrived for the standing room only service that was held for Dhingra at Garden Oaks Funeral Home on Bellaire and Synott on the morning of Tuesday, June 7. Prayer services for Dhingra will be held at the Arya Samaj on Schiller Road at 4pm on Saturday, June 11.

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