Samuel Levi Horst died on Jan. 6, 2021, in Harrisonburg, Va. He was 101. Samuel was born on July 18, 1919, in Berks County, Pa., to Elmer and Katie (Buckwalter) Horst. Growing up during the Depression, he combined thrifty resourcefulness with a drive toward education, completing high school at night while working. Samuel’s pacifist convictions and conscientious objector status were rooted in his faith. These beliefs 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 Ph.D. A historian, Samuel dedicated his life’s 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 leadership on the local Human Relations Council, and broader involvements such as Amnesty International.

Samuel married Elizabeth Good (d1991) on June 19, 1948 and together they raised six children, settling in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Elizabeth’s creativity and skillful expertise in home arts, her hard work, and leadership as she managed the large household deeply enriched his life and allowed him to pursue his own dreams. Samuel and Elizabeth were members of Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, which supported their faith in a loving and merciful God. Together, they found a close community in the Colloquy Group there.

Samuel thrived on interactions with extended family, neighbors, friends, colleagues, and former students, and was an especially-loved uncle to many. Other enthusiasms included making connections with strangers, neighborhood walks, Saturday morning 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. Later, he looked forward to weekly dinners with faithful friend Kenton Brubaker. His avid news consumption and knowledge of geography and political science informed his active objection to war and to social and racial injustices. He expressed compassion for those in need in daily mealtime prayers. Samuel’s sense of adventure in pursuing his academic goals provided expansive new experiences for his family with temporary relocations to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Md., and Charlottesville, Va.

In 1995, Samuel and Mary Ellen Stutzman (d 2013) were married, providing a new partnership for both during their later years. Mary Ellen brought generous companionship to Samuel and warmth and acceptance to the family.

Survivors include his children, Kenneth Horst (Mary Beth Wills) (Ellarica Moatz, d2004), Hannah Horst Schertz, Sylvia Horst (Ross Bender), Barbara Horst, Mary Horst (David Buchanan), and Carol Horst (Bruce Shafer); sister, Orpah Kurtz and brother, John Horst; grandchildren, Jessamyn Schertz, Julian Bender, Ava Buchanan, Dylan Shafer, William Buchanan, and Maria Shafer; stepgrandchildren, Lewis Morton, Katreniah Washington, and Tiffney Gilkes; and many nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, stepgrandchildren, and stepnieces and nephews.

Samuel is predeceased by Elizabeth; Mary Ellen; granddaughter, Julia Elizabeth Schertz; brothers, Irvin, Paul, Elmer, Leon, Luke, and Clarence; and sister, Anna Kathryn.

Samuel’s children are profoundly thankful to the staff and administration at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community in Harrisonburg for their close collaboration with the family and consistent dedication to Samuel’s ongoing and later COVID-related care.

A virtual memorial service will be live-streamed at on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, at 1:30 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Samuel’s name to: Mennonite Central Committee, PO Box 500, Akron, PA 17501-0500

Online condolences may be made to the family by visiting

McMullen Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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