Samuel Horst

Samuel Levi Horst, 101, died Jan. 6, 2021, in Harrisonburg, Va. He was born July 18, 1919, to Elmer and Katie (Buckwalter) Horst in Berks County, Pa.


Growing up during the Depression, he combined thrifty resourcefulness with a drive toward education. His pacifist convictions led him to enroll in Civilian Public Service, which included time in California as a firefighter and at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey. Higher education included studies at Eastern Mennonite College, Goshen College, American University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Virginia, where he earned his doctorate.

A historian, he dedicated his work to teaching and research at Eastern Mennonite University, authoring and co-authoring numerous books and articles about Mennonite history and the Black experience during the Civil War and Reconstruction. He integrated his scholarship with engagement in community efforts such as the local Human Relations Council and broader involvements like Amnesty International.

He married Elizabeth Good on June 19, 1948, and settled in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. They were members of Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg.

He enjoyed connections with strangers, neighborhood walks, Saturday tennis, swimming, purposefully getting lost on country drives, reading aloud to his young children and visiting geographically or historically significant sites in the Shenandoah Valley.

His avid news consumption and knowledge of geography and political science informed his active objection to war and to social and racial injustices. His sense of adventure in pursuing academic goals provided expansive new experiences for his family with temporary relocations to Washington, Baltimore and Charlottesville.

Elizabeth preceded him in death in 1991. In 1995, he married Mary Ellen Stutzman, who preceded him in death in 2013.

Survivors include six children, Kenneth Horst (Mary Beth Wills), Hannah Horst

Schertz, Sylvia Horst (Ross Bender), Barbara Horst, Mary Horst (David Buchanan), and Carol Horst (Bruce Shafer); a sister, Orpah Kurtz; a brother, John Horst; six grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.

In addition to his wives, he was preceded in death by six brothers, Irvin, Paul, Elmer, Leon, Luke and Clarence; a sister, Anna Kathryn; and a granddaughter, Julia Elizabeth Schertz.

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