My mother, Mary Christner Borntrager, grew up in the Amish faith, yearning to read books. Her parents were strict in many ways, especially her mother. But I remember my grandfather being more liberal about some things. He kept up with the world around them, even politics. And he encouraged his children and grandchildren to get more knowledge.
After my parents were married, they chose to leave the Amish for the more liberal Mennonite faith.
We always had a lot of children at our house. Mother was usually at the center of the group, telling stories, reading books, reciting poems, or playing games. As the years went by, it didn’t change. In fact, my daughter was dating a young man for several years before breaking up. He said that he could give her up, but it would be hard to give up her grandmother!
Mother influenced many people over the years. I still meet her former pupils who say she helped them and was their favorite teacher.
My granddaughter was several years old when mother passed away. She says she has many fond memories of her. She is also following in her great-grandmother’s footsteps becoming a writer. Her first book was published when she was 17. She is currently attending college at Malone University to become a creative writer.
Mother always said growing up Amish gave her a good foundation for a God-filled Christian life. She was proud of her Amish heritage and wanted to pass it on in her books. Her goal was to give the world books for all ages: books that were true to life about people who are often misunderstood. I think she accomplished that. In this world with so many bad books to influence young people, I am thankful Herald Press is keeping “Ellie’s People” books in print
—Kathryn Keim, daughter of Mary Christner Borntrager, North Canton, Ohio.
This is the account of the curious adventures of Mary “BB” Borntrager as I, her curiously adventurous great-granddaughter may choose to recall them.
The truth is, much of what I remember about my great-grandma BB was told to me, but that does not in any way make what I know to be less true. Grandma BB (as I called her even though technically she was my great-grandma) was, as her books have proven, a wonderful storyteller. She could spin a tale with the best. In fact, while I cannot recall many instances of her relating stories to me, as I was still fairly young when she passed, I know for certain that my grandmother, Kathryn, Grandma BB’s daughter, received the gift of storytelling. My grandma Kathryn, a perfectly wonderful teller of stories, and myself, are seemingly blessed with Grandma BB’s skills of storytelling on paper. We make a marvelous pair.
Grandma BB, a daring spirit to begin with, and her husband, John opened their home for young girls with nowhere to go. The girls greatly benefited from being under their care. In another account, Grandma BB and my grandma (Kathryn) often played tricks on my grandma’s younger sister and thought it the most hilarious thing.
Grandma BB loved her family, despite the silly tricks she’d play, and her family knew it. I knew it too, even though I didn’t get to spend much time with her before she passed. She was also a woman of faith and trusted her God above all else. By the time I knew her, her husband had already passed on, but she was still a bright light of joy and the best playmate a young girl could ever have.
She and I were partners in crime, and we’d often sneak chocolate from Grandma Kathryn’s kitchen, even though neither of us was really supposed to have any! These were her adventures that I got to share in, you see. Now that I look back, I think my grandma and grandpa probably just turned a blind eye most of the time. But when I was in the moment, I remember the rush I would get waiting for Grandma BB to return with a smile on her face (and probably mine too!) when she finally got the chocolate. It may seem silly, but these are fond memories.
I remember being told that she wrote even when her hands became so shaky you could barely make out what she wrote. She kept on.
Her funeral was not a sad occurrence. It was joyful because we knew she had finally ascended to heaven to be with her God, and her John. I remember there were a lot of people around, a lot of pictures taken, and my mother being very pregnant. Grandma BB passed away only a short while before my younger sister was born. My mother likes to think that my Grandma BB met my little sister on her way up to heaven, and on sister Livy’s way here.
Overall, my Grandma BB was a wonderful woman who lived a wonderful life. I am very proud to be able to call her my great-grandmother. She inspired me to become a writer like her, and I know she has inspired others, even though she’s gone now; if not through her writing, then through her works throughout her life.
I love that I seem to have inherited her gift of writing and want to put it to good use.
—Yours truly, Rebecca Snyder, great-granddaughter of Mary Christner Borntrager
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Mary Christner Borntrager first published the Ellie’s People series of novels in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Herald Press. Most of the books in the series are being republished for a new generation of youth fiction readers, which also appeal to women of all ages. The Ellie’s People series chronicles the family and friends of the protagonist of book 1, Ellie Maust, across several generations.While fictional, the series focuses on real issues young people face within the context of an Amish life. Books from the series have sold over half a million copies.
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