Lillian Fern Stoltzfus 1974 – 2020

I was shocked to see this obituary today. I immediately recognized the photo from the back of her book. Lillian Fern Stoltzfus wrote a very nice guide to learning Pennsylvania Dutch called Speaking Amish.

I don’t believe I ever met Lillian or anyone in her family, but have known of her for years. I would often see her books in stores in Amish communities and of course got one for myself. Lillian loved languages and clearly had a talent for them.

At a young age 46 – I thought she was even younger than that – this was an unexpected and tragic passing for the family. From her obituary:

Lillian Fern Stoltzfus, 46 of Bird-in-Hand, died Friday afternoon July 24, 2020.

She was the daughter of Daniel Z. Stoltzfus, and Lydia Fisher Stoltzfus of Bird-in-Hand, PA and was a member of Oasis Mennonite Fellowship.

Born in Upper Leacock, she taught school in Lancaster, PA, Virginia, and Paraguay. Her passion was for ministry and she recently served at a refugee camp in Greece after a mission to Turkey.

A graduate of Millersville University, she provided translation services and English as a Second Language for Church World Services in Lancaster City, speaking English, Arabic, Spanish, German, and Pennsylvania Dutch.

Lillian loved butterflies, art, and had a special fascination with languages and wrote several books in her native dialect of PA German. She was a favored Aunt and loved tea parties with her nieces in the orchard.

Lillian’s parents wrote on Facebook that “She went on a walk today and was found mid afternoon by a search party having drowned in a pond.” The address for cards and letters is:

Daniel & Lydia Stoltzfus
233 Snake Hill
Bird-in-hand PA 17505

Condolences to Lillian’s family.

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    1. Mary-Ellen

      Lillian Fern Stoltzfus

      We met Lillian several times at the Orchard Inn in Bird-In-Hand. Had many delightful discussions with her about her books. So sad to hear this.

    2. Andrea R.

      sad to hear

      Oh my, I’m so sad to hear this. I had ordered her book a few years back so that I could learn a little bit of PA dutch before we make the leap to move to the Lancaster area when my husband and I retire. I am sure this is a huge loss for the entire community. Thoughts of peace for her family during this terrible time.

    3. James Krämer

      Lillian Stolzfus

      Ich bin schockiert!
      I have her book and somewhere the CD. I like the dialect, because it is so close to the Schwäbisch-Badisch that I speak.
      When I ordered it, ahe sent the nicest e-mail.
      Mein aufrichtiges, herzliches Beileid.

    4. Geo


      The untimely passing of such a special person is painfully sad. It’s obvious she improved the world around her leaving it better for her having been there. Rest well Lillian.

    5. Donna


      You’re 46 yo…you go for a walk and they find you later drowned in a pond? How exactly does that happen?

      1. very sad news

        My thoughts too! How does this happen??

      2. CJ

        I hope this incident is being investigated… so sad!

        1. Sheryl Dumond

          How did this happpen?

          Seems like this is a bit strange

      3. Susan

        Drowning !!

        Isn’t this in the same area the young 18 year old Amish girl went missing, is something going on ????

    6. Lillian Fern Stoltzfus

      May GOD bring comfort to this family such a tragic accident Our GOD has gained an angel to watch over all of us

    7. June


      So sorry to read of the passing of Lillian. With so much sadness in the Amish community that has been on going. Miss Stoltzefus seemed like a very gifted lady.
      Gods Peace to her family.
      In Christ, To be absent from the body is to be present with Our Lord. Our Hope and Peace. May your faith be kept strong in His promises.

    8. Cathy Wallace

      To Lillian’s family,

      So sorry to hear about your loss. May God comfort and strengthen you.

      Prayers ❤️ and sympathy in Christ’s love,

      Cathy Wallace

    9. Reader

      Condolences to the family. Was it suicide? I have read that Amish ladies get depressed when they are not married at this age. Very sad.

    10. Brenda Steigerwald

      God Bless Lillian

      My thoughts and prayers go out to all the family of Lillian.
      She was a wonderful author, loved her books.
      She may be gone from this earth, but she will live on in all
      that new and loved her.
      God Bless Lillian & her family

    11. very sad news

      I did not know Lillian Fern, but this news is very sad to read. My heart and prayers go out to her family and friends. May God be with you and comfort you. Sincerely, Vicki Hall from CT.

    12. Amy

      Cried the second I heard...

      Talk about stunned when I heard about this. I did meet her & know the family for years. It doesn’t matter how you drown in a pond, just be sensitive please. Some ponds can get quite deep. Think about if her family was reading this. And not all people want to get married. Even with Amish & Mennonite it is often by choice more & more these days. But she was a precious, intelligent woman from a beautiful, tight knit family. That’s all that matters.

    13. Deb

      So sad

      Prayers for her family. Sounds like a very talented young woman. Is she related to the young Amish girl that is missing?

      1. Probably only distantly related. The missing Amish girl’s last name is the much less common alternate spelling with double “o” instead of “u”.

    14. Evelyn B. Bradley

      So sad

      She was so young, my heart breaks for her family, and y thoughts and prayers are there for them for comfort during this time of loss. I didn’t know Lillian but from what I’ve read I wish that I could have et her! I would have loved to have gotten her book on the Amish language, I know she must have been a huge blessing to so many in her short lifetime. Again my prayers are there for the family and all that were close to her!

    15. CJ

      So sorry for her family ~

      Can only imagine … so sad for her parents and family.
      I agree, we do not all need to know all the details ~ but assume her extended family all need our prayers.

      1. CJ

        A diffferent CJ

        Just to clarify, I am Not the same person that commented earlier (above) on 7/28 @17:06.
        Apparently there are 2 of us, going by our initials!
        My prayers and sympathy to all …

    16. jim dorffner

      A light in the darkness

      Her books have inspired so many, both Amish and English alike. She is in God’s gentle hands now. Blessings to her and her family.