Paul Schoomer: An appreciation


Paul Schoomer (center), is shown at his University City bookstore, Paul’s Books, with Tsila and Howard Schwartz in 1983 at a book event for Howard Schwartz’s book ‘Elijah’s Violin and Other Jewish Fairy Tales.’ Schoomer died Aug. 13. JEWISH LIGHT File photo: David Henschel

By ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

When a person is 14 years old, death is a certainty, but it is kept at a safe distance. But when one is 80-plus, nearly every day a family member or friend passes away, which reminds us of our mortality and of the importance of appreciating life, health and as a popular song says, to “shower the people you love with love.”

I am a proud graduate of the University City High School Class of 1957 — large at 407 — and very close knit, with many of us good friends since kindergarten. 

Almost every day now, I receive an email, text or phone call with a subject line “sad news” informing me that yet another one or two U. City classmates has been taken from our midst, as our rabbis say, before we recite the Mourners’ Kaddish. 

Last Thursday I attended the funeral and celebration of the life of Paul Ernest Schoomer, one of my closest friends from the age of 14. We were neighbors on Amherst Avenue, close enough to walk or ride our bikes to Hanley Junior High, and later to Washington U., where we took many of the same courses including English composition, history and political science. We built and shared a voluminous stamp collection.


Paul and I also shared a love of science fiction and set up a sci-fi book club which Paul named Impossible Incorporated. Once a month we gathered in Paul’s basement boy cave to discuss the latest works of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Philip K. Dick, among others.

Our mutual favorite was a novel called “Bring the Jubilee,” by Ward Moore, which described what would have happened if the South had won the Civil War.

Paul’s love of books blossomed during his proprietorship of Paul’s Books in the Delmar Loop.  Both Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation, who officiated at Paul’s funeral, and Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman Emeritus of Congregation Shaare Emeth, praised the large Judaica selection at Paul’s.

Like Rabbi Stiffman, I would go to Paul’s to get one book and leave with 10.  My wife Barb begged Paul not to show me so many books because we ran out of shelf and floor space.

One of Paul’s favorite books was a biography of Abraham Lincoln by Carl Sandburg, which contained prints of every known photo of The Great Emancipator.

When my Dad died, Paul knew just what to say to me when I came back to school: “Remember, Bobby, it is for us the living to be dedicated.” 

Paul and his wife, Suzanne, always knew the right thing to say—in good times and sad.

I’m grateful for my long friendship with Paul Schoomer. 

We had a very long and good run.