A small dinner party in early March was held at Hummingbird Hill, Reading, celebrating retired Elizabethtown professor Paul Stoltzfus Kurtz’s 90th birthday and his recently released book, “Plow, Pulpit, People: We Called Him Pop — A Life With a Purpose.”
He spent 25 years of work detailing the life of his father Christian J. Kurtz.
The book tells the story of a local Amish father, farmer, ordained minister at Conestoga Amish Mennonite Church, Morgantown and a Berks and Lancaster County Amish historian.
The author, Paul Kurtz, former professor and humanitarian, has been the local guiding hand in charge of the preservation duties of the historic Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead in Wyomissing since 1977.
Along with his wife of 67 years, Lydia, among the guests were Elam Stoltzfus, and his son Nic Stoltzfus who have recently assumed his duties as ambassador and caretaker of the Stoltzfus Homestead. This enabled Kurtz to finish and release his long-awaited book, “Plow, Pulpit, People: We Called Him Pop — A Life With a Purpose.”
Elam offered a festive toast and blessing, “Paul, you are a connector of people. Your relationships with the Stoltzfus family and friends have been vital in the success of putting together a team to research and travel in Germany for the Stoltzfus family history. Your persistent invitation to Nic and me to get involved in telling the historical accounts adds to my deep respect for your 20 years of guiding the work of the Stoltzfus Homestead. Now, it’s wonderful Pop's story is published from the many journals. Blessings to you and Lydia.”
His son Nic added, "I am honored to call Paul Kurtz a friend and mentor. Without him, we wouldn't have the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead as it exists today. Paul did so much work in promoting the house and casting a vision for the future. Furthermore, he is following in his father's footsteps, as his father was one of the early promoters of sharing Berks County Amish history back in the 1950s."
Kurtz said, “In 1995, I made a promise to my father Christian J. Kurtz to publish the story of his life and his ‘Red Notebook’. Now in 2020, the 250th anniversary of the village of Morgantown, I have finally had the time to complete all these years of Pop’s puzzle.”
“My wife Lydia assembles puzzles. Since my childhood I have been picking up the pieces of Pop’s puzzle, assembling pieces of his life, fitting them together… the pieces begin with Ulrich Kurtz born in 1610, in Rosenbach, Switzerland,” said Kurtz.
The book contains the entirety of Pop’s ‘Red Notebook’ with the genealogy of “The Four Kurtz Brother Immigrants.” Included are his daily detailed records, notes, receipts of farms sales and supplies, sketching and maps of the town and surrounding areas, wills, old photos, the comings and goings of the early Morgantown village’s buildings and shops, as well as the changes of House Amish, Church Amish, and Mennonites.
The book also reveals how the advent of technology and changes in American culture through education and wars did or did not alter the simple life and devout faith of the Anabaptists’ fathers who came to Pennsylvania from Switzerland and Germany.
“What a gem of a man in Paul Kurtz with his desire to honor his father and the many accomplishments he did in southcentral Pennsylvania. We are blessed to have known him and worked with him over the past 30 plus years. This book will not only reach today’s generation, but will also bless future generations,” said Lois Ann and Lemar Mast, who encouraged him to write his book that Masthof Press, Morgantown, published.
“Pop, a farm boy who could barely pass an 8th grade math test, in 1990 received an award for his work in Amish history from the Mennonite General Convention in Philadelphia at the age of 89. He also served as vice-chairman of the Lancaster Mennonite Society,” said Kurtz.
Ordained into ministry by lot on Mother’s Day 1931, on May 10, 1981 he and his wife Elsie Stoltzfus Kurtz were recognized for 50 years of ministry at Conestoga Mennonite Church, Morgantown.
“Pop juggled his role as father, preacher, farmer,” said Kurtz, “faith was foremost, he traveled the country preaching and seeded many churches through his missions.”
Paul Kurtz himself worked the farm and studied throughout his life serving on missions, studying summers at Kutztown, receiving his master’s degree from Albright College in 1959, and later his PHD in Harrisonburg, Virginia in 1966.
Mennonite women took 105 severely disabled preschool children into a home who had no place to go. He worked with that field becoming a professor of psychology as well as principal and administrator in different schools. He also served as Director of Research in West Virginia State Institution working to develop programs of behavioral analysis for the severely mental and physically disabled children.
“I want people to read this book and understand my father and his faith and how he has passed it on to us and the children.”
“This is also a book for the ages, see all the photos for the children to learn from and understand the faith and life of the ancestors before them,” hee said, motioning to a book sitting on the coffee table, “German Lutherans to Pennsylvania Amish: The Stoltzfus Family Story by Nic and Elam Stoltzfus.”
His life like his fathers was a life of service and love for humanity especially children.
Paul upon reading his Pop’s diary about his discernments of the times, wrote this passage from scripture, “He has shown you, O, mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God,” - Micah 6:8.
The book is available at email@example.com.