Lois Eshleman

AUG. 13, 1921-FEB. 1, 2013

February 07, 2013
  • Eshleman

Lois Eshleman went to be with the Lord on Feb. 1, 2013.

Born near Shippensburg, Pa., on Aug. 13, 1921 to her parents Lydia and J. Ira Martin, Lois lost her father in an industrial accident at the tender age of nine months. She was raised by her mother and four older brothers, Lawrence, Aldus, Clair and Donald.

After grade school, Lois taught herself high school by borrowing books from the local library, which she read while ironing stacks of wash, which she and her mother did to help support the family. After passing the high school examination, she then traveled across America to La Junta, Colo., for nursing school all with the unfailing support of her mother.

In June 1947 she married J. Lester Eshleman, whom she had known since she was 16. While Lester finished his medical/surgical training at Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia, Lois trained to become a nurse anesthetist at Jefferson Hospital, Philadelphia.

They then left for Africa as both a husband-and-wife surgical team as well as a spiritual team, with Lester as an ordained minister and Lois as a minister's wife. They began in Tanzania, where they set up a surgical unit at a 100-bed hospital at Shirati mission, on the shores of Lake Victoria. While there, they became parents to two children, Charlotte and Lynn.

Lois and her family returned to the States in 1966 so Lester could complete a urological residency in Philadelphia. During the next several years, Lois faithfully shuttled the children on a 40-mile daily round trip to schools in Lancaster, Pa., and worked as a nurse in the surgical recovery room at Lancaster General Hospital.

In 1972 Lois and Lester left for the Congo, for a 1,000-bed hospital in Kinshasa, Congo's capital city. In this hospital, Lois set up a new department called Central Surgical Supply. Her work there was constantly challenged by corrupt administrators who failed to share her vision of resource conservation and economy and did their best to supply her with the most dysfunctional of employees. Despite these challenges she continued to make an enormous positive impact on the hospital's operation.

In 1979 Lois and Lester returned to Tanzania, this time to the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre located at the base of the mountain. Here, she again set up a surgical supply. Continuing with her theme of resource conservation, her department combined leftovers from a local T-shirt factory with old magazine pages to make absorbent bandages for the hospital, saving the hospital thousands of dollars annually. Recycling for her was not an option; it was a necessity, and gave her a chance to use her gift of creativity.

Lois and Lester retired and returned to the U.S., to Landis Homes in Lititz, Pa., in 1997.

Lois had a touch of magic, her fingers. Wherever her family landed, Lois would create a lovely home using whatever was available; packing crate furniture, banana bark picture frames, apple pies from papayas, and smoked ham from wild boar, to name a few. She also had a passion for writing, which she continued to share with those around her all her life. She was known as Mrs. Eshleman, Auntie Lois, Mother Lois, and Mama, to many who shared nothing but a bond of love and respect, thanks to her belief in them and her encouragement to bring out their best when spirits were low or lacking.

In her final residence at Landis Homes, passersby were told to walk by her door quietly, because behind that door lived a woman who was praying. When asked how she was, she would smile and reply, "Grateful!" Lois will always be remembered as a faithful believer, indeed.

Lois is survived by her daughter, Charlotte, married to Amos Verberne, living in Holland; and son, Lynn married to Carole Lima Eshleman, living in Massachusetts.

At her request, Lois will be cremated. Her remains will join her husband's at a graveside gathering at Millwood Mennonite Church Cemetery in Gap, Pa., on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 10:30 a.m., followed by a memorial service the same day at Landis Homes Bethany West Chapel, 1001 E. Oregon Road, Lititz, PA 17543, at 1 p.m. All are welcome to attend both.

Memorial contributions are welcomed to the Landis Homes Caring Fund, in care of the above address.

The Herald-Mail Articles