At 90, Elva Stauffer is still one of a kind

By on February 25, 2016

Elva Stauffer (behind the counter with son Ron) helps provide a home away from home for Cloister  Restaurant customers like former state Sen. Noah Wenger (far left)

Whenever Elva Stauffer is making schnitz un knepp, she calls customers from a list she keeps on the wall by the phone at her Cloister Restaurant.

Kumm esse!” Stauffer says, which is the Pennsylvania Dutch saying for, “come eat.”

They want to know, and stop in or she has it ready for them for take-out. Stauffer and her son, Ron, continue to make Pennsylvania Dutch food such as sliced beef heart with gravy, pig’s stomach, and mince pie.

“Old-time Dutch” go to the diner where talk is flying about everyone and then everyone else.

“The young kids don’t come in, they go to the fast food places,” Ron said.

Elva’s dishes are becoming a delicacy, even around here.

Retired Senator Noah Wenger talked about scrapple while he was in having breakfast with his son-in-law John White.

“It’s kind of a product similar to meat,” Wenger said. “It’s best not to know (what’s in it). You just enjoy it.”

“You won’t find that at (a chain restaurant),” White said.

“I was born and raised here in Lancaster County,” said Wenger. “I’ve lived here all my life. My daughters used to work here as waitresses when they were in high school and college.”

“I’m an import. I’m from Virginia,” said White, pronouncing the word as, Vi-gin-ya. “Don’t make fun!”

White’s dad (Ray White) played for the Yankees, so the North isn’t a shock to him.

“He’s well-known for knocking out Lou Gehrig at the plate,” White said. “So every time they do that anniversary, they’d bring my dad up.”

Aaron and Elva Stauffer purchased the diner in 1973. She turns 90 in March and is still quick.

An alarm sounded and diners looked to their phones and to others’ phones. Elva looked out the window.

“I used to run across the street here and went with the ambulance,” Stauffer said, adjusting the scanner hooked to her skirt.

“I don’t go no more. They fired me I guess you’d say. I have the scanner, yet, to tell me when they’re going out. I just have it because it was mine and it’s still running.”

Elva was a volunteer ambulance driver for 26 years. She still drives her own car. Ambulance drivers are now paid.

“I helped load the people but I wasn’t an EMT,” Stauffer said. “Ten years ago, he told me I can’t run no more. I think I could do it now, yet.”

They didn’t realize she would live to 120.

“I hope to keep going and keep at it,” Stauffer said. “I love meeting all the people and enjoy what I’m doing and that keeps me young. I just thank the Lord that I can keep going. Maybe I don’t act right for my age.”

Elva was making schnitz un knepp which is dough, ham and apples made “all in one pan.”

“It’s popular because Lancaster County is very sweet-toothed,” said Doloris Martin, a former employee who stops in often to visit her childhood friend, Joyce, who works as a waitress.

Pig’s stomach is another popular item which Elva stuffs with sausage, potatoes, bread cubes, celery, salt and pepper and seasoning.

“They used to give the pigs’ stomachs away, they didn’t want them,” Elva said. “And then they were selling them for a quarter. Now they’re $6-8 for one.

“I learned to cook from my mother. My father would have horse sales in New Holland and I would have a little restaurant there at the (public) sales barn.”

“It is pork, so some of the flavors seep through to what’s inside,” Martin said. “If it’s crisp, it’s really good.”

Elva doesn’t eat it.

“Oh, I just don’t like the idea of it, but I like what’s inside,” Elva said.

It’s questionable how long this popular hangout place will be here.

“I’m getting up there and might have to put it up for sale sometime,” Ron said, a 1970 Ephrata graduate.

Elva said how things have changed through the years.

“I had 11 brothers and sisters who all died but one,” Elva said. “I miss them coming in.”

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments at 


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