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Lisa Groff doesn’t see her work as a career, but as a vocation—a calling to spend her days in service to others. “Giving care and comfort to each family experiencing grief and sorrow brings me deep satisfaction.”
The Groffs have been a foundational part of the Lancaster community for more than 115 years. As a fourth-generation funeral director, Lisa balances respect for her family’s tradition of service with a commitment to contemporary practices. When the opportunity arose to open her own funeral home, she and her older brother Fred believed that, by thinking uniquely, they could make the funeral experience one that embraced both innovation and comfort. And so they created The Groffs Family Funeral Home.
Rather than heavy drapes and somber decor, they worked with designer David Lyall, and architect Richard Levengood, to transform the funeral home into a truly beautiful and thought-provoking space. They incorporated high ceilings, oak and chestnut flooring, and many large windows to bring in natural light. Paintings and installations of local artists cover the walls and line the hallways. The Groffs saw it as an opportunity to better serve clients and their families during a difficult time. One way to help people feel supported by a community is to envelope them in familiar imagery, with its beauty and power to help calm emotions and make the experience more bearable.
A stunning Freiman Stoltzfus original hangs in the grand hallway—it’s a painting of a tree that’s experiencing all four seasons at once. Its origins are deeply rooted in a map of Lancaster City, accented by a tiny red brushstroke on West Orange Street, which was formerly the historic Western market. The painting, and all the artwork placed throughout the funeral home, gives credence to the limits of unknowable and unsayable things —boundaries we can often feel, but are hard-pressed to articulate.
When asked what’s the best thing about being alive, Lisa says, “There is so much to do in life. There are so many people to touch in such a short time frame. The friendships I have and the families I am fortunate enough to serve, help me to appreciate the value of life that God has given me. Each new day I believe it’s one more chance to comfort someone who is sad, make someone smile, share a story or more importantly, listen to someone who needs to share theirs.”
Growing up, Lisa never felt constrained or limited. She was encouraged by her family and teachers to pursue a path that she believed would include sports, not the family business. Sports helped her focus in school, but her family also valued the arts, intellectual enrichment, and cultural experiences. Lisa participated in theatre and photography. After graduating from Elizabethtown College, she worked in Connecticut for about six years, coaching tennis at both high school and college levels, and working in sales and marketing. “In the late 80s, things changed in the economy. My dad [Robert F. Groff, Jr.] and I had lots of great, long conversations about what I wanted to do, where I wanted to live,” she says. She decided Lancaster would be a wonderful place to live and realized it had blossomed since the late 60s. “Dad asked, ‘Do you want to come home and be in the funeral business?’”
Lisa went back to school in Boston and earned her mortuary degree from Mt. Ida College. Following a year of apprenticeship, she says she took the right path. “I really always wanted to help people. This is my calling—to offer care and comfort to people during their time of grief,” she says.
After her father retired, he sold the business. “So, when I had this opportunity with my older brother Fred to create something new, I had to have courage going out on my own with my brother to reestablish the family business. Not to fear change, but to dream,” she says. This summer, Lisa’s younger brother David will be joining the business. “That just means the world to me; having additional family members wanting to join me” she says.
Lisa’s peace is found in appreciation of the beauty and respite nature provides. “Every year I take my 85-year-old dad out in the sunny July mornings and we get in the whaler and do a little fishing,” she says of her 30-year-old tradition of fishing on Squam Lake in New Hampshire. “I love life. My dad instilled in me that we need to stop and take in the moment, learn how to be in the now.”