Florence Littauer’s remembered for ministry of encouragement and hope
‘Silver Boxes’ message and ‘Personality Plus’ book still circulating worldwide
July 17th, 2020 / By: Tammi Reed Ledbetter | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
LUBBOCK, Texas—Florence Littauer, the iconic speaker and author who championed Christian messages of hope, encouragement and understanding, died July 11 after battling a stroke and a subsequent heart attack. She was 92.
In her 50-year career, Littauer wrote over 40 books and addressed hundreds of thousands of people in the United States and overseas, inspiring thousands of women, including many aspiring writers.
Her ministry began when she and her husband Fred moved the family to San Bernardino, California in 1967 to serve as staff at the then-headquarters for Campus Crusade for Christ. Fred was director of conference services and Florence began teaching women’s Bible studies.
Groups began to invite Littauer to tell her life story and to share how she overcame depression. More speaking engagements followed, then her first book in 1978, an autobiography titled “I Could Be Happy, if Only …” It has since been revised and retitled “Behind the Personality.”
Regarded as a trailblazer who opened the door for thousands of women to develop their leadership and communication skills, many Southern Baptist women were the beneficiaries of that ministry.
Her best-selling book “Personality Plus” sold millions of copies and is translated into more than 25 languages. Author John Maxwell described the book as life changing. “Through Florence’s work, the four personality types—which is widely known as ‘The Personalities,’ became a fun and accessible tool for understanding yourself and getting along with others.”
Maxwell added that the material has saved relationships worldwide. “I've shared the concepts and her popular Personality Profile with audiences everywhere and especially encouraged pastors to equip themselves with her teachings.”
Many people will remember Littauer for her powerful presentation on “Silver Boxes: The Gift of Encouragement” and her popular book by the same name (Thomas Nelson, 1989). Her application of Ephesians 4:29 drove home how powerful words are and the effect people allow others’ words to have over their own lives.
“Silver Boxes” has been described as a message that has changed many lives by turning them into encouragers, publisher Wayne Hastings said. “She opened ‘silver boxes’ for each person who touched her books or heard her speak about her books,” he added, noting his gratitude having experienced “personal change through her life and work.”
In fact, “Silver Boxes” was one of the most frequently repeated Focus on the Family broadcasts during James Dobson’s tenure there. Dobson described it as a timeless message that would “challenge you to think about what you speak into the lives of those around you.”
In addition to her own speaking and writing ministry, LIttauer spent more than 30 years teaching communication skills through the CLASSeminar (Christian Leaders, Authors & Speakers Seminar), influencing hundreds of future authors.
Carole Lewis, director emeritus of First Place 4 Health ministries, called Florence her greatest mentor. “I watched how much she cared as she served others. I heard her say that her greatest joy would be for one of her students to surpass whatever she did.”
“She was a tremendous influence on my life and very instrumental in training me for teaching and speaking,” said Rhonda Kelley, an author and speaker who has written extensively on communication skills. “So grateful for her bigger-than-life personality and her commitment to excellence.”
“Florence brought joy into every room she entered and comfort into every heart listening to her words,” stated author Dorothy Patterson, who served as professor of theology in women’s studies for almost four decades at three Southern Baptist institutions. Calling Littauer her faithful friend and “matchless mentor,” Patterson added, “My library has her books and recordings of her words of encouragement, so she will keep on ministering to me.”
For Candi Finch, women’s studies adjunct professor at Truett McConnell University, “Florence Littauer exuded enthusiasm and love for the Lord as well as demonstrating pure delight in equipping women to be effective communicators.” As a new professor teaching communications for women, Finch attended one of the CLASS seminars; it left an indelible mark on her thinking, she says. “Her ability to create memorable outlines and powerful illustrations was a true gift and I am delighted to point my students to her materials.”
Another tribute came from Bruce Barbour, who worked on Littauer's book “Personality Plus,” which Revell published in 1983. “Through a few updates, this classic has been in print for more than 37 years and continues to help millions of readers better understand themselves and be difference makers at home, at work and in their communities.”
He remembers: “Florence was every publisher's dream author: she was a relentless marketing machine and left every conversation with an encouraging word of appreciation for all we were doing to increase exposure and sales for her life-changing message. I join Florence's family, friends, colleagues and fans in celebrating a life well-lived for this good and faithful servant of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Writer and speaker Patsy Clairmont said of Littauer: “I met Florence 40 years ago when she took me under her tutelage and spoke truth into my broken life. She believed in me long before I had the courage to believe in myself. Her generosity of heart, her passion for learning, and her love of the privilege of platform work, made an indelible impression on my life. She was a dynamic mentor and dear friend.” As one of the founding “Women of Faith” speakers and the author of numerous books, Clairmont described herself as a “grateful student” of Littauer’s.
At 82-years-old, Littauer was still speaking, albeit with a scaled back schedule, and still participating in teaching the CLASSeminar. After a bad bout of shingles retired her—she continued to live in her own home and was mostly independent.
“She was an exceptional woman and led many women to the Lord,” author Bob Barnes said. “She was a great encourager, motivator, offered affirmation and was a great friend to many. Florence truly was ‘one of a kind!’ She finished well and has earned her reward!”
Born April 27, 1928 in Newton, Masssachusetts, Littauer earned a degree in English from the University of Massachusetts, and taught high school English, speech and drama.
Two-and-a-half years ago, she had a four-week hospitalization that started with an infection and ended with pneumonia. At that time, many thought the end was near. But she rallied—not to her former level of independence, but enough that she could still have a nice life. After several months of in home care, she was well enough to travel to Lubbock, Texas, and move in with her daughter Marita.
Two weeks after her 92nd birthday, on May 17, Florence suffered a stroke. On June 21, she had a heart attack. Her death on July 11 followed eight weeks of hospitalization and one week of hospice care at home.
In one of her good phases of the long hospitalization—when it looked like she might recover, Marita told her mother that she was amazing. She looked up and said: “I want to be amazing.” Marita asked her to say it again so she could capture it on video to send to her siblings. Littauer looked into her daughter’s phone and told Marita: “I want to be really amazing.”
Every life that she touched would agree, daughter Marita Tedder of Lubbock said. “Florence Littauer has lived a life that was really amazing.”
A private family remembrance/send-off party was held July 18 in Lubbock. She will be buried in her trademark “Silver Box” dress in Merrimac, Mass., where her husband Fred, as well as her parents, are buried. She is survived by her three children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
For more information, visit thepersonalities.com/blog where the signature speech “Silver Boxes: The Gift of Encouragement” is available to hear in the free resources tab.
With additional reporting by Marita Tedder of Lubbock and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.