Harris J. Frank, leader of numerous organizations, benefactor, dies at 95

Harris Frank

Harris J. Frank, a dynamic and visionary leader and generous supporter of numerous organizations and causes, died Monday, Oct. 19. He was 95 and a lifetime resident of Greater St. Louis. 

He was a dedicated and relentless fundraiser for various non-profits and an adviser and trainer on fundraising skills to many other organizations.  He was also a wise and accessible mentor to rabbis and Jewish professionals through the years.

Disclosure:  I feel blessed to have been mentored, advised and encouraged by Harris Frank throughout much of my life.  Harris encouraged me to join the board of directors of Congregation Shaare Emeth during his presidency of his beloved temple from 1968-1969.  It is almost impossible to imagine Shaare Emeth without the boundless energy and continued support of Harris Frank. 

In the course of his long and highly productive volunteer career, Mr. Frank served as President not only of Shaare Emeth, but also of the Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and Westwood Country Club.  He was also a co-founder with the late Kenneth Marshall of both the local and national Senior Olympics.

His leadership in so many Jewish organizations prompted his late wife Judy to nickname him “King of the Jews.”

In 1966, he was instrumental in Shaare Emeth’s purchase of the land on Ladue and Ballas, where the temple moved from its longtime previous location at Trinity and Delmar in University City.

Harris John Frank was born in St. Louis on June 15, 1925 to Herbert and Ruth Harris Frank.  He was a graduate of Country Day (now MICDS) and a 1945 graduate of the University of California with a bachelor of science degree in naval science and a Navy Commission.  That same year he married Judith Renard, his late wife of 62 years.

They had two children, Nancy Hauserman (Dan Benton) and John (Jan) Frank; four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Professionally Mr. Frank worked as an agent for the Solon Gershman, Inc./Gershman Commercial Real Estate firm for more than 50 years.

In addition to his other activities, Mr. Frank helped organize a “friends” committee at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and served for 14 years on the board of Jewish Hospital (now Barnes-Jewish).

Mr. Harris was “a leader among leaders,” according to Lynn Wittels, President & CEO of the Jewish Community Center. 

“And although Harris was a true visionary, with an eye toward what could be, he never forgot to live in the moment. He was incredibly thoughtful, never too busy to share a compliment or words of encouragement,” Wittels said. “His legacy at the J will live on forever. On a personal note, I will always value our conversations about the future of the J and his continued investment in our success. We will miss truly miss him.”

Former President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis Barry Rosenberg warmly recalled Mr. Frank’s active role as a community leader.

“Harris Frank, as a Federation Past President, was extremely insightful and offered constructive advice through the years. Harris worked with Nancy Siwak, another Federation past President, to raise funds for a renovation of the Federation Kopolow Building among many other projects,” Rosenberg said. “He was not only a dynamic and visionary leader, but also very kind and thoughtful on a personal basis.”

Rabbi Emeritus Jeffrey Stiffman of Shaare Emeth said Mr. Frank was “the heart and soul” of the congregation.

“He was our consummate leader throughout the last 60 years. Past-President, Chair of many activities, donor of the Sanctuary, guide to rabbis and friend to all,” Stiffman said. “He went on from our presidency to serve as President of the JCC, the Jewish Federation, Westwood Country Club and served in many leadership positions. He received the St. Louis Award and many other plaudits. His heart always remained with Shaare Emeth, where his final service will be held.”

Survivors in addition to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren include his adored partner of several years, Renee Hartstein, who “joined him in his continued zest for all things that St. Louis had to offer,” a family statement said.

Mr. Frank’s funeral service is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 23.  Rabbi James Bennett and Rabbi Emeritus Jeffrey Stiffman of Shaare Emeth will officiate. The service will be live-streamed.  Visit bergernemorial.com for the live stream link. 

Memorial contributions preferred to the Frank Communications Center in the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa (donations may be made online at https://givetoiowa.org/frank-business) and Memory Care, St. Louis.