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Ellis J. Shenk

February 10, 1931 ~ December 28, 2021 (age 90)


Ellis J. Shenk (age 90) passed away at home in Bel Air, MD on Dec. 28, 2021, surrounded by family.  Ellis dedicated his life to serving others and was grateful for that privilege.  He was motivated by the belief that all people are deserving of lives lived with dignity, and he worked diligently to help bring that about.

Ellis was born on Feb. 10, 1931 in Hershey, PA to Harvey Kurtz Shenk and Sylva Longenecker Gingrich.  He grew up on farms in Lebanon County.  After earning a B.S. in Chemistry at Elizabethtown College, he sailed to Europe as a “seagoing cowboy” taking heifers to war-torn Germany.  In post-World War II Germany, he served with the Church of the Brethren in BVS (Brethren Volunteer Service) for 4 years working to resettle refugees.  Following his return to the USA and marrying Carolyn Ressler, Ellis was employed by the Church of the Brethren’s Service Commission which first took him to Washington D.C.  There he served as the Brethren representative to the NSBRO (National Service Board for Religious Objectors) as well as a leader for seminars in D.C.  After earning a master’s degree in International Service from American University, Ellis was assigned to Sardinia, Italy to head up HELP (Homeless European Land Program), which had been (co)founded by actor Don Murray to resettle refugees on small farms.  Next, Ellis was posted to the mountains of Puerto Rico, where he served as administrator of the Castañer Hospital and also followed up on some church projects in Haiti.  While living in P.R., Elizabethtown College honored him with the “Educate for Service Award”.  Following completion of the project in Castañer, Ellis joined World Vision, working as National Director of development projects in Bangladesh and later as an assistant administrator at Hospital Vozandes (founded by HCJB) in Quito, Ecuador.  Upon return to the US, Ellis worked in NYC for CODEL (Coordination in Development) which focused on community-based development that required coordination between Catholics and Protestants.  As the Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific, he managed projects in the Philippines, the Fiji Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Thailand, among others.  He ended his career working as Coordinator at ECPAT (End Child Prostitution in Asia Tourism) in NYC.  Following his retirement, Ellis relocated to Bel Air, MD, where he valued being involved with the church community at Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren.  He valued the service the church provided, including volunteering for SERRV at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, where he processed crafts made in developing countries in preparation for their sale in the US.

Ellis enjoyed traveling and meeting people because he believed it made the world smaller and more connected.   Whenever he met someone, he wanted to figure out how he connected to them.  Over the course of his life, he traveled to over 30 countries and to all 50 states.  He loved driving and had a great memory of the roads and places he had been.  

Ellis had a talent for both the written and spoken word, as well as for learning languages.  In his early years, his parents frequently spoke Pennsylvania Dutch.  That made German easy to learn and he impressed the Europeans with his German.  While in Italy, he learned Italian and in Puerto Rico he learned Spanish.  In Bangladesh, he picked up some Bangla and was even able to read some of the words.  He had also studied French and Russian but since he rarely used them, he didn’t become fluent in either. 

His love of music included both listening to it and singing, especially in groups.  He sang in an Elizabethtown College quartet and participated in choirs over the years.  He played at playing tennis, but he did much better at biking.  In his spare time, he was an avid reader of magazines and newspapers (clipping many an article), did puzzles, and watched a wide range of TV shows.  But his most cherished pastimes were his computer and genealogy.  His passion for genealogy resulted in long hours reading obituaries and researching his ancestry. 

Ellis was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Ernest Shenk, and his sister-in-law, Marian.  He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Carolyn Shenk, their 5 children:  Suzanne Shenk (& husband, Scott Siegal), Todd Shenk, Krystal Shenk, Jolyn Shenk, and Shawn Shenk (& wife, Kelly Shenk), 6 grandchildren, his sister Alma and her husband, Carl Herr.  Ellis was a devoted husband, father and grandfather who enjoyed his family.  He will be missed, as will be his wit and humor.


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