Ellen Stern shares her story of courage and resilience.
Ellen Stern shares her story of courage and resilience.

The Liberty Lutheran Family of Services is blessed to provide vital resources to thousands of people facing life-changing situations in Pennsylvania. Each person is courageous in their own way. Ellen Stern, a resident at Artman, is an exceptional example.

Ellen and her husband Harold moved to Artman in January 2014 after a series of health problems. They realized the split-level Willow Grove home that they shared for more than 40 years wasn’t ideal for the walking and balance issues that come with age. But don’t let her age and petite frame fool you. At 87, Ellen has as much courage and spitfire as ever.

“I still want to fight when there is a wrong,” she says.

Ellen and her mother fled Nazi Germany in 1939, when she was only 11. They made their way to Louisville, Kentucky to rejoin her father, who had been released from Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Many years have passed since the night the Gestapo took him into custody at their Berlin home. Ellen remembers the “dreadful” event like it was yesterday, hiding in the corner of the room while her mother berated the Gestapo, behavior that she says could have gotten the family killed.

“My mother always taught me if you don’t speak up in the face of evil, you become part of it,” says Ellen. “It was a sad, horrible time for me,” she recalls of her father’s time at Buchenwald, but she is quick to point out how it shaped her future. “When I was a child, I felt like I was saved for a mission.”

Ellen and Harold on their wedding day.
Ellen and Harold on their wedding day.

A distant relative of her father’s helped them start over in Louisville. Life in the states in the late 1930’s took some adjusting for the shy little girl from Berlin, but Ellen set out on a path for success. She graduated from the University of Louisville and worked at WAVE-TV, the local NBC affiliate for several years, and then moved on to the film department at NBC in New York City. She met and married Harold. They moved to Philadelphia for his job and settled in Willow Grove with their two sons.

Ellen was never one to sit still for long though. Over the years, her creative spirit and inquisitive nature prompted her to author five published books and many short stories, including biographies of Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.

“I know I am blessed,” says Ellen.

She still has in her possession a bag of letters from relatives in Germany that were sent to her family in Louisville, begging for help to escape to the US. But, she says, there was nothing her parents could do for them by that point. She has never returned to Berlin, still very much haunted by childhood memories.

“I was afraid it would just un-do me,” she says. “When you know your family’s been killed, it ruins your spirits. I think that’s why I write, to get it all out of my head.”

Now, at age 87 she spends her days at Artman at her husband’s side. Ellen is eager to write another book because she has the time, but not quite sure she has the energy for it. She is more than happy to sit down for a chat with you and she has quite the story to tell – a life’s legacy of courage and resilience.

About Liberty Lutheran

Incorporated in 2001 and headquartered in Ambler, Pa., Liberty Lutheran, with locations across Pennsylvania and combined service history of 300 years, faithfully provides vital resources to more than 61,000 individuals and families facing life-changing situations. These individualized services include independent and personal care, assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation, hospice care, in-home supports, wellness services, children and family services, integration services for immigrants and political refugees and disaster response. Liberty Lutheran’s team of dedicated employees serves individuals and families through their family of services in Pennsylvania, including Artman, Paul’s Run Retirement Community, Liberty at Home, Liberty Hospice, Lutheran Children and Family Services, Lutheran Congregational Services, The Hearth at Drexel (formerly Mary J. Drexel,) and The Village at Penn State. www.libertylutheran.org

 

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