Meet the Women of Historic Restorations


From the Left: Katie, Lois, Karri, and Danielle 

With all our posts, articles, education, and discussion on Women’s History month, would you have expected any less of us?  Of course not!  And we are always happy to meet (and then exceed!) expectations.  So without further ado, let’s bring these lovely ladies out into our preservation spotlight and let you get to know the wisdom, grace, talent, ability, grace, expertise, and all-around general fabulousity of these strong women.

“I’m a woman.  Phenomenally.  Phenomenal woman, that’s me.”
-Maya Angelou

“Right-Hand Rosie” Lois

Lois Groshong

The original lady of Historic Restorations, Lois radiates the quiet, centered wisdom that makes you want to fold your legs in under yourself and sit and listen in her quiet for a week or two.  Born to a father bearing the name of Apollo, would you have expected her to be any less of a goddess than she is?

Raised in a Victorian farmhouse in Nebraska by her parents Apollo and Evelyn, Lois and her older brother Thomas spent their days ripping through the fields and orchard playing cowboys and indians and pretending to be an assortment of superheroes, letting their wild imaginations create the world in the unique way that only unfettered childhood can do.

Lois’ Mother had different desires than mud and muck for her daughter.  Initially Lois resisted her Mother’s efforts to turn her into a lovely lady looking sweet in pink, lacy outfits – but eventually Lois blossomed into that lovely young lady indeed.  And while her tastes may not have run along the lines of pink lace, Lois’ original aspiration was to be a fashion designer and she pursued that interest in aesthetic design by majoring in art in college, flexing her creative muscles and rounding out that creativity with a minor in psychology.

Lois may have mimicked a variety of superheroes, but she had a host of real-life superheroes to ground her in the firm reality that heroes and she-roes are not merely for the makings of myths and childhood play.  Lois says, “My heroes are my family members. One of my uncles was the first African America to graduate from Creighton University School of Dentistry, and many of my aunts and uncles (and now siblings and cousins) are doctors, lawyers, in the teaching profession (college level and school administration), and entrepreneurs.  My Mother programmed computers for her job with Farmers Union Insurance Co. for over 20 years.”

With such a strong framework of determination, accomplishment, capability, and obvious worth, Lois’ family were the perfect stewards for the growing goddess.  Stewardship that impacted her strongly and helped her develop the determination she would need to face the world.  “I was told at a very young age that no one was ‘better’ than me, and that I might have to work twice as hard to be recognized as equal, but to never, never give up or ‘they’ win,” Lois says.

And apparently Lois Groshong doesn’t like to lose, because her quiet determination is as solid as the historic buildings she works to save and bring back to life.

“As a child I was creative, curious, and a tom boy.  As a teenager I was creative, introspective, and goofy.  As a young adult I was creative, searching, blooming.  As an adult I am creative, spiritual, traditional, and sometimes everything I was as a child, teenager, and young adult!” she says.

Obviously creativity is a running theme in Lois’ life, and that creativity suits her role in the Historic Restorations team.  As our “Right-Hand Rosie”, Lois facilitates our projects in a variety of ways and in any way necessary to keep the business, clients, and the other team members positive, organized, and focused.  Clients have been known to refer to our goddess as the “remodeling psychologist”.

And that suits her just fine.  “The most satisfying aspect of what I do is knowing that our talents and principles go against the accepted and typical building practices of today, and that what we do will be around long after we are gone,” Lois says.  “Historic preservation is all about conservation as well as preservation and our legacy will be that we shared something that is greater than ourselves and left this world a better place.”

Lois believes the biggest challenge to women in business is simply, “They are not men.  In the building business men are reluctant to have a positive reaction to women directing them in how to do anything.”  But Lois doesn’t let that stop her and simply continues on her way, knowing she has as much ability and right as the next person.  Encouraging other women to do the same, Lois also encourages us all to support women in business by judging businesses by the quality of the service and product they offer.  “Shop at women-owned business not just when you can, but when you should,” she says.

What does the future hold for our (still growing) goddess?  “My future is full of continuing to put my creative talents to good use,” Lois says.  “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

“Riveting Phenomenon” Danielle

Danielle Groshong-Keperling

If Lois was something of a tom boy, her daughter Danielle was an even bigger one.  Born in Denver, Colorado, her early life was spent following in her Father’s footsteps – figuratively and literally.  Danielle recalls a photo of her at age two where she is wearing her Dad’s work boots and carrying his lunch box, fully prepared to go to work. “I wonder if that picture was a harbinger of things to come,” she says both with a laugh, and in all seriousness.

(And those of us who know Danielle don’t doubt for a second that even at age two, she really would have accompanied him right into work, fully prepared to pitch right in and get to work!)

“By the time I was in Middle School, I would help him clean the shop on weekends to spend time with him, sometimes I would even make wooden plugs,” says Danielle.

Danielle may have inherited a penchant for all things shop-related and a work ethic from her Dad, but she was born with an innate thirst for knowledge.  (Winnie the Pooh once asked Danielle, “Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”  Danielle patted his head and offered him more honey.)

At the age of 11, Danielle migrated to Lancaster County, PA with her parents, where she began her long and lustrous career of educating herself.  She attended private Catholic grade schools and graduated from Lancaster Catholic High School.  After which she studied Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management at HACC and then completed her Organizational Leadership degree in 2009 at Eastern University.  In late 2011 she graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from Eastern University as well.

While she very much values her formal education, Danielle notes, “Real life eamples and experience have always been the ‘best’ teacher for me, which is one reason I did not feel as comfortable in a traditional college setting.  After all, my first ‘college’ experience was people that brought their real life experience to the ‘class room’.”

And believe it or not, she uses both her Culinary Arts education and her business education to this day.  As Chief Operating Officer at Historic Restorations and as a pastry chef at Byers Butterflake Bakery in Leola.

“I wanted to be a social worker until my senior year of high school when I had the revelation that I could not, in fact, save the world (or even, failing my saving of the world, just bring all the unwanted children home with me).  One day I was home from school sick with wisdom teeth, saw a commercial for a pastry arts program and decided that is what I wanted to do,” Danielle says.

Chief Operating Officer by “day”….  Wedding Cake Decorator by “night”….

And she could rivet too. 

That is indeed our Danielle.  Not having any interest in being anyone but herself, Danielle is funny, creative, decisive, determined, quirky, educated, and sharp.  So smart, we’re pretty sure we’ve seen tacks bow to her as she passes by them in the office.

In her spare time, when she’s not intimidating the office supplies, Danielle can be found reading, watching MSNBC or reality TV, helping friends, working in the community, or working on her master plan for world domination as she belts out her theme song – The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.

Danielle pulls from all these strengths, her work history, and her education in her daily management of Historic Restorations’ operations, working hard towards good stewardship of our collective built history – the most rewarding part of what Historic Restorations does for Danielle.  “My favorite quote points out that we are only on this planet for a short period of time, how we care for and preserve our history is a legacy for for future generations,” she says.

“Like people, houses are created, live, and grow old.  Like us, they eventually disappear.  Houses that survive to be studies, explored, and admired by distant generations should be regarded as emissaries from another time, as gateways into our past.”

 By Jack Larkin in WHERE WE LIVED: Discovering the Places We Once Called Home, The American Home from 1775 to 1840

But it’s only one of the legacies Danielle is working on leaving behind.  As a strong woman in a male-dominated field, she faces daily challenges in her career.  She says that while she does believe things are changing for women in construction, they still have to work a little bit harder and know their “stuff” a little bit better to get respect.  “I don’t know how many men get winked at during a project meeting for knowing the right answer…. but I bet it’s not as many as me,” she says with a laugh.

She advocates for women in business to be supportive of other women in business by sharing stories and providing information, helpful resources, guidance, and support.  “I’ve enjoyed reading books about women that have overcome obstacles and paved the way for my generation.  Including Personal History by Katherine Graham (the first woman to lead a Fortune 500 company after her father died), and If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails: And Other Lessons I Learned from My Mom by Barbara Corcoran (who built her real estate empire with a $1,000 loan),” she notes.

So what does the future hold for Danielle?

“Babies, more puppies, penguins, teaching on the college level, a pygmy hippo, who knows?  I am waiting for my crystal ball to arrive – it has been back ordered for awhile now.”

“Office Maven” Katie

Katie O’Brien

Our newest addition to the Historic Restorations team, Katie, is a Lancaster County native (though her parents are originally from Pittsburgh, where they now live again).  Active in dance and sports in childhood, Katie was adventurous, friendly, and eager to learn as a child, “rebellious, active, and confused” as a teenager, and now finds herself solidly in “happy, independent, world traveler” as a young adult.

Katie graduated from Clarion University of PA with a B.S.BA and a focus on marketing.  She also studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland and attended Dublin Business School, as well as interned for a non-profit organization while in Dublin.

“Traveling, studying, and working in Europe heavily influenced who I am today.  I don’t believe I would have gotten this far in my career without that asset,” says the frank Katie.

In her free time, Katie enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching movies, listening to music, being outside, and reading.  She brings many strengths to the table, but isn’t one to over-estimate herself.  “My strengths are that I am easy to get along with, a quick learner, and I am always interested in learning and doing something new.  But I procrastinate sometimes and always have multiple to-do lists going on at once,” she says in her straight-forward manner.

But while managing multiple to-do lists may feel like a weakness to Katie, it works as a strength for the important role she plays in the Historic Restorations team.  As our resident “Office Maven”, Katie executes daily administration tasks and marketing strategies with her precision efficiency and organization (and flourishing penmanship).  Quite literally everything and anything might be thrown Katie’s way, and she’s a master at woman-handling it and throwing it right back.  If this she-roe weren’t quite so petite and friendly, it might almost call Paul Bunyan to mind.  And for many, it does anyway.

Katie’s interest in historic preservation stems from her innate value of older buildings.  “It is important to me to preserve these buildings.  If they aren’t, they will be lost forever, and buildings just aren’t built the same anymore – they aren’t as grand as they once were,” she says wistfully.  With a sigh.

When asked about the challenges women in business face, Katie said, “They face discrimination, judgement from others, and are often viewed as being incompetent.  Through my career, I have faced not being respected by older colleagues and being looked down on.”

How does Katie woman-handle that?

“I turn to older colleagues and family members.  It’s easy to feel alone when situations happen, and women can support each other by sharing their experiences and stories.  It’s always good to remember that you’re not the only woman who has experienced challenges in business,” she says.

Katie’s biggest she-roe and influence has been her older sister, Kelly.  An independent woman who is very successful, happily married, and mother to an 18-month-old, Katie values having a strong and capable role model to look up to.

With that same positive outlook on things, Katie says of her future, “I am not certain what my future holds for me, but it is bright!”

“Wordsmith Extraordinaire” Karri

Karri A. Sensenig

Karri is another Lancaster County native we recently added to our (apparently growing) collection of native artifacts.  She’s joined our team as a consultant to help us develop and implement the Historic Restorations newsletter and blog as the solid educational resource we want it to be.

Karri uses her background in journalism, writing and reporting, marketing, education, and construction to pull together educational content for the online community we are building for our customers, colleagues, and the preservation community so they can continue learning, discussing, and sharing historic preservation information.

“I like to talk and teach people about things.  Or type.  Whichever is most accessible for me at the moment.  I’m not terribly picky,” she says.

Married to one of Lancaster County’s few remaining stone masonry artisan craftsmen, and raised in a family of traditional tradespeople, Karri is no stranger to the construction industry.  Raised in a Mennonite family and the traditional Lancaster County culture, historic preservation is as ingrained in her as hanging her wash out to dry and growing her own tomatoes.  (Heirloom varieties, of course.)  Her first full-time job after graduating high school was with a construction company, and over the years she has worked for and consulted with a wide range of small to large construction companies.

In addition to her career activities, Karri has spent the last 15 years homeschooling, home-making, gardening, reading, writing, pursuing her B.A. in Educational Studies, studying and learning.  She’s rather curious about pretty much anything and everything and might surprise you by holding her own in discussions about anything from the best way to knead bread, to the economic impact of current trade policy, to the financial implications of local school district policies.

“I don’t believe in blindly following someone’s opinion – even my own – so I question it all, especially myself. I don’t know that I ever really gets answers to those questions, but I do learn a lot along the way,” she says.

As a child Karri grew up on farms and spent most of her time outdoors, in the fields, woods, ponds, creeks, and occasionally the back yard.  “I was a ‘free range’ kid,” she says, “Organically grown.  But I’m pretty sure there was some genetic modification, so no official organic label.”  As a teenager she continued to spend most of her time outdoors, this time usually on her horse.  As a young adult she poured her energy into mothering the four children she had in seven years.  While getting her B.A. and helping her husband start his own business.

We’re pretty sure they make a medication for people like her, and we’re kind of glad she doesn’t take it.

Now she splits her time between her family and homeschooling her kids and helping Historic Restorations save our history – one building at a time.  She says, “Historic preservation provides us all with a sense of community, a sense of self, a sense of place – all of which is important to me.”

But that isn’t the only thing important to Karri, supporting women in business is just as important.  She says, “The culture I grew up in is a very practical culture, and we don’t like things like wasted space so our glass ceiling was pretty low.  And I’m rather tall, so I kept hitting it.  After enough of bumps, I decided it might be smarter to just raise it.”

How does Karri accomplish that?

“Education.  Knowledge is power, not just because you now have awareness, but because now you can take action.  Without knowledge, the action true change requires could never happen.  So I educate people,” she says.

Will she do that for the rest of her life?  What else will she do?

“I’m not sure I’d know how not to do that!” she proclaims, adding, “I could try, I guess.  But I’d rather try lots of other things first.  Like running a marathon, or better yet an ultra-marathon like the 135-miler in Death Valley.”