Clarke E. Hess, 64, PA German culture and Mennonite family historian

By on November 14, 2018

Clarke E. Hess, 64, of Lititz, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Nov. 7, 2018, at his home. He had been living with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease for more than six years.

Clarke was an enthusiastic historian of Pennsylvania German culture and Mennonite family history. He was born in Lebanon County on June 16, 1954. He lived in Lancaster County since the age of six.

Clarke’s great love was the study of Mennonite genealogy and Hess family history. He was a researcher and lecturer of Pennsylvania architecture and historic folk art. He curated various museum exhibits on Mennonite arts and antiques.

Clarke authored the book “Mennonite Arts,” about the antiques and regional culture of the Mennonites. He was an active member of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, where he joined the board of directors in 1981. He was also a member of the board of directors of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County, and the Landis Valley Museum.

He served on committees at the Heritage Center Museum, the Hans Herr House, and the Lancaster Quilt Museum, and received a lifetime-honor award as Fellow of He also was a member of the American Folk Art Society and the Vernacular Architecture Forum.

In 1985, Clarke purchased his ancestral Hess Homestead in Warwick Township near Lititz, and restored this property for his home, which was featured in numerous magazine articles and television programs. Clarke frequently opened his home to historical groups, garden clubs, and to anyone who was interested in local history.

Clarke was vice president and a principal owner of Hess Home Builders of Neffsville. Clarke’s father and older brothers began this business in 1964. Clarke spent his entire working career with this company.

Clarke is survived by his spouse: Lee J. Stoltzfus; and by Clarke’s brothers and sisters: Ruth Ann, wife of John B. Gochnauer of Columbia; Sheryl J., wife of William E. Quickel of Marietta; W. Roy, husband of Brenda M. Hess of Lancaster; Robert L. Hess of Columbia; John P., husband of Milesetta H. Hess of Lititz; James L., husband of Susan R. Hess of Lancaster; C. Richard, husband of Susan Hess of Annville; Earl K. , husband of B. Anne Hess of Newmanstown. His family also includes 28 nieces and nephews; plus numerous great and great-great nieces and nephews.

Clarke was a son of Walter B. and Ruth N. (Horst) Hess.

A celebration of Clarke’s life will be held Sunday, Nov. 18, at Lititz Church of the Brethren, 300 W. Orange St., Lititz. Visitation will begin at 1 p.m. with the service at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, 2215 Millstream Road, Lancaster, PA 17602; or to the ALS Association, 321 Norristown Road #260, Ambler, PA  19002.

To send the family an online condolence, visit Arrangements by Charles F. Snyder Jr. Funeral Home & Crematory, Lititz.

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