Kenilworth Heroes: Elmer and Fannie Lapp

written by Joe Lapp, aimed at a younger audience

Elmer and Fannie Lapp were both born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in the 1930s. Lancaster County is Amish country, where some people still ride in horse-drawn buggies instead of cars and use gas lanterns instead of electric lights. Though they grew up with cars and electricity, both Elmer and Fannie were Amish-Mennonites who believed in living a simple lifestyle, loving God, and obeying the Bible.
Elmer grew up on a dairy farm and put in long hours milking cows and driving a tractor through the fields. Later he was a lumberjack and felled big trees to make boards for houses. Fannie’s parents were truck farmers. They grew vegetables on their country place and then took them into the city to sell at markets. When Fannie was a teenager she went to work in Lancaster City for a rich lady named Mrs. Binz. She learned all about cooking and about city life, and she decided she liked it there.
Elmer and Fannie went to the same church, Weavertown Mennonite. When they were sixteen, they started doing activities with the church youth group, like having Bible studies and going to hymn sings at their friends’ houses. They started to date each other and got married in 1957. At their wedding the preachers preached in both German and English, since people understood both languages. Their reception was in a local fire hall, and they and their families made all the food.
After they were married, they felt God wanted them to help other people. In 1965 they moved to the big city, Washington DC, to Kenilworth, a neighborhood much different than their country farms. They learned, though, that people were the same in the city as in the country, and they found many good friends among their neighbors on Douglas Street and in Kenilworth.
They started hosting Bible classes and craft classes for the girls and boys who lived around them. Kids loved to come and hear the Bible stories then get a snack at the end. After awhile, they started a church called Fellowship Haven. Other young people from Elmer and Fannie’s home church in Pennsylvania came and helped with the classes, and soon with two weeks of summer Bible school and two weeks of summer camp.
Elmer became a pastor for the church and kept busy helping people in the neighborhood and the church. Fannie was soon a mother of five children. She helped her husband in his church work and was a good mother to her two boys and three girls.
The Lapp family kept in close contact with their family and friends in Lancaster. As Elmer and Fannie’s own parents got older, they decided to move back to Pennsylvania for awhile, to honor their parents and help them with their lives. When they returned to live in Kenilworth again, their friends in the neighborhood and at the church were glad to see them back. They spent the next sixteen years in Kenilworth, helping families and children in the neighborhood love each other better and love God better.
In 2001 Elmer and Fannie retired and moved back to Pennsylvania, their home place, for good. They miss Kenilworth, though, and the people they know in Washington DC. So the next time you want to travel, go to Lancaster County to see the horse and buggies and the beautiful countryside, and if you stop by the Lapp’s house maybe you’ll get a Bible story and a snack!

Note: Fannie Lapp died in 2009.

Elmer and Fannie Lapp in Kenilworth with Douglas Street neighbors, circa 2000. Photo by Joe Lapp.