Jean Kraybill Shenk

Jean Kraybill Shenk, 91, died Feb. 19, 2023, at Landis Homes, Lititz, Pa., after a long battle with dementia.

She was born Jan. 12, 1932, near Elizabethtown, Pa., a preacher’s daughter, the fifth of six children of Martin R. Kraybill and Suie Garber Kraybill.

She actively lived for others. Wherever she saw unfairness, she tried to do her part to put things right. She was partner of 70 years to her beloved husband, Norman Groff Shenk, in his roles as pastor of Erisman Mennonite Church and executive with Eastern Mennonite Missions, Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite Disaster Service.

At Lancaster Mennonite School (1950), she sang alto in a women’s quartet and caught the gloved hand of her suitor (Norman) skating on the Mill Creek. Weeks after they wed (1952), she worked as psychiatric aide at Fairfield State Hospital in 1-W alternate service. Later she sold encyclopedias, interpreted culture and faith for tourists at the Mennonite Information Center in Lancaster Pa., and retold the biblical story at its Tabernacle reproduction.

In the 1980s, ardently supported by Norman, she forged a path as hospital chaplain in Lancaster, the first woman among her peers in Lancaster Mennonite Conference formally trained in Clinical Pastoral Education and credentialed (1997) in that role. She aided thousands of families with Anabaptist connections, writing pastoral reports on each hospital visit.

She prayed daily by name for each of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren until dementia eroded that discipline. Sending family members out into the world she loved, she said, “Remember who you are and where you come from.”

Surviving are her husband, Norman; sons Gerald (Sara) Shenk, Philip (Charlotte) Baker-Shenk and Steven (Kimberly) Shenk; six grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and a brother, Nevin. 

Four siblings preceded her in death: Arlene, Wilmer, Simon and Maribel.



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