Esther Heatwole Shank was born and raised on a dairy farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, near Bridgewater, not far from Harrisonburg. She was one of 12 children and she nad her four sisters helped with cooking, gardening, and canning. Esther and her husband Rawley J. Shank purchased their own dairy farm near Harrisonburg, where they raised their three daughters. Esther is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite High School, Harrisonburg, Virginia. She did secretarial work for Mennonite Broadcasts, Inc. She has been active in her church women's group, in teaching Sunday school, and in many service and community projects.