Grace Lefever loved nature, people and life.

She was the founder of Sonnewald Natural Foods in Spring Grove, a community activist for peace and justice, and an artist who supported local symphony and theater presentations.

Grace Lefever died Tuesday at her home after a brief illness, said her daughter, Willa Lefever, 62, of Spring Grove.

Grace Lefever was 91. Her body has been donated to the Hershey Medical Center.

"My mother wanted to donate her body to medical science," Willa Lefever said. "That's my mom. Even in dying she's blessing other people."

Early life: Grace Lefever was born and raised on Wayne Avenue in York City and was a 1941 graduate of William Penn Senior High School.

She taught art to elementary, junior and high school students in Adams County schools. She also was an assistant director of the Brethren Volunteer Program in New Windsor, Md., where she met Harold "Tim" Lefever, whom she married in 1955.

Tim Lefever — who died in 1986 — introduced her to the benefits of staying away from processed food and consuming only natural foods.

He learned about natural foods while serving time in prison in Ashland, Ky., as a conscientious objector during World War II. He would later purchase 70 acres of wood and field areas near Stoverstown and call it Sonnewald, a German word meaning "sunny woods."

In 1946, he built the first solar-heated house in Pennsylvania.

Natural foods: Shortly after their marriage, Tim Lefever bought a wheat grinder, as the family would no longer eat bleached flour. As Grace Lefever used the grinder, she began to sell fresh-ground wheat, seeds and other natural items. This became the beginning of her health food store.

The couple's farm drew hundreds of young adults who stayed and worked there to learn about living off the land and self-sufficiency, Willa Lefever said.

"It was a lot of hard work living on the farm and working with other people to create harmonious relationships, but it was good," she said. "It actually caused people to change their goals and change the path of their lives. Mom made everybody feel loved and accepted."

Grace Lefever's store — 4796 Lehman Road in Spring Grove — is now owned and run by Willa Lefever and Willa's husband, Bill Kaiser.

After her store work, Grace Lefever continued to educate the public about natural foods by leading "weed walks" around the Sonnewald property, where she taught people what plants are beneficial for eating and health purposes.

Community: Grace Lefever, also an artist, poet and songwriter, supported the local arts community as a member of the York Art Association and a season ticket holder for the York Symphony Orchestra. She also attended local theatrical productions.

She had been involved with local interfaith forums to promote understanding of various faith groups in York County. She was one of the founders of York-based People For Peace and Justice.

In 2013, Grace Lefever released the 41-minute "Walking with Grace: Week Walk DVD" to reach out to more people about the benefits of plants and natural foods.

Willa Lefever said her mother — who was a member of West York Church of the Brethren — was a spiritual woman who lived what she believed and taught.

"Her spirituality was just interwoven throughout her life, through everything she did," Willa Lefever said. "She just saw the Creator in people, in situations, in nature, in art. She was just a remarkably whole person."

The Rev. Joan Maruskin, 70, of New Freedom, said she still lives by the health, nature and spiritual lessons Grace Lefever taught her during their 40-year friendship. She said Grace Lefever always wanted to take care of her as their friendship blossomed to include participating in community activities together.

"She was just a beautiful human being," Maruskin said. "She was appropriately named Grace. She brought God's grace wherever she went."

The family is planning a service to celebrate Grace Lefever's life, her daughter said.

Besides Willa Lefever, among Grace Lefever's survivors are another daughter, Nancianna Maitri, Port Townsend, Wash.; and three sons, Bart Lefever and Evan Lefever, both of Elkhart, Ind., and Dan Lefever, Malvern, Chester County.

—Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.