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St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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85 years of friendship and counting: Lifelong buddies plan a 75th high school reunion

Burton Greenberg (left) and Stan Towerman in front of Brookdale Creve Coeur, where their 75th reunion luncheon took place on June 29.

Stanford “Stan” Towerman and Burton M. “Burt” Greenberg met in first grade at Pierre Laclede Grammar School in the city of St. Louis.

“We were about to be promoted — at least he was,” Greenberg said jokingly. “He was standing at the back of the classroom, and he was the tallest of all the students. That’s what caught my attention. And we’ve been friends ever since.”

And when he says, “ever since,” he’s talking more than 85 years. Towerman is 93 and Greenberg will be 93 in late October.

Not only did they attend grade school together, but they also graduated from Soldan High the same year, in 1948. In many ways, they have led parallel lives.

Both went to college locally and received four-year scholarships, Greenberg to Washington University and Towerman to St. Louis University. Both spent two years in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, Greenberg as a sergeant, Towerman as a second lieutenant. 

And then there was the matter of Towerman’s wife, the former Elaine Richman, who had gone to Soldan with both men. 

“I dated his wife on occasion,” said Greenberg slyly, looking dapper in a navy sports jacket with matching navy-and-white pocket square.

“Wait a second,” countered Towerman, who got married before he went into the Air Force. “I didn’t know that.”

“Sure, you did,” Greenberg added, laughing. “She was a lovely girl.”

Greenberg married Phyllis Trugman, whom he met at a frat party at Wash U after the service and before attending Notre Dame Law School. 

As young married couples, the Greenbergs and Towermans lived in University City, where Stan was an insurance executive and Burt practiced law. Both couples eventually moved west with their families, Towerman to Creve Coeur, Greenberg to Frontenac. 

Both couples had three children: two boys and a girl, and nine grandchildren, though Towerman also has 11 great-grandchildren. And both families belonged to United Hebrew Congregation, where Greenberg and Towerman each served as synagogue president.

They also eventually became widowers: Towerman’s wife died 19 years ago and Greenberg’s in 2019 (after nearly 65 years of marriage).

The two men meet for lunch at least once a month; over the weekend, they invited me to join them at Lester’s in Ladue. The wanted to tell me about their 75th Soldan High School Reunion, which they had extensively planned. I was especially interested since I am on the planning committee for my 50th high school reunion, scheduled for fall 2024. Maybe I could pick up a few tips?

Greenberg had suggested a luncheon for the 75th, explaining that unlike the two of them, most people their age don’t drive and if they do, they don’t drive at night. 

“We had organized our 50th class reunion,” said Greenberg, estimating that about 50 members of their class of 167 students had turned out for that event. Greenberg has amazing recall, by the way. He never skips a beat when responding to a question — it’s as though the answer is right at his fingertips. 

Towerman is quick minded as well, explaining that he contacted Brookdale Creve Coeur, a senior living facility, which offered to host a complimentary lunch for members of their class and their “dates” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 29.

“Dawn, a marketing specialist at Brookdale, sent out a wonderful invitation,” said Towerman. He explained that she had worked from a list of attendee names he and Greenberg had amassed at their 50th reunion. 

“Dawn discovered that a substantial number of the class had passed away,” Towerman continued. “Many (of those surviving) were living in other parts of the country, without the funds or inclination to travel back.”

And so, on that fateful June 29th day, how many of the 167 members of the Soldan High Class of June 1948 showed up for their 75th reunion?

That would be two, said Towerman and Greenberg, pointing to each other. The three of us couldn’t help but laugh.

Despite the paltry (or pathetic, as the two men admit) turnout, neither Towerman’s nor Greenberg’s spirits were dampened. 

Greenberg, a self-admitted workaholic, still practices law full time, specializing in medical malpractice cases. He says he has no desire to ever retire. 

“I’ll work until I drop,” he said, noting that his mother lived to 104 and his father to 97. 

Towerman, who retired from the insurance business after 65 years, now spends his days volunteering to recruit and to arrange Honor Flights, which celebrate America’s war veterans by inviting them to share a day at our nation’s war memorials. Since 2018, he says he has arranged more than 270 Honor Flights. 

He also has a “life partner,” Arlene Goodman. The two have tried to set Greenberg up on a date, but to no avail.

“I’m just not interested,” said Greenberg, emphatically.

And as for whether Towerman and Greenberg will plan an 80th high school reunion, well, neither is committing to the cause. 

“We’re looking for volunteers,” joked Towerman, noting that with Greenberg’s genes, “They should call Burt.”

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About the Contributor
Ellen Futterman, Editor-in-Chief
A native of Westbury, New York, Ellen Futterman broke into the world of big city journalism as a general assignment reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner in the latter part of the 20th century. Deciding that Tinsel Town was not exciting enough for her, she moved on to that hub of glamour and sophistication, Belleville, Ill., where she became a feature writer, columnist and food editor for the Belleville News-Democrat. A year later the St. Louis Post-Dispatch scooped her up, neither guessing at the full range of her talents, nor the extent of her shoe collection. She went on to work at the Post-Dispatch for 25 years, during which time she covered hard news, education, features, investigative projects, profiles, sports, entertainment, fashion, interiors, business, travel and movies. She won numerous major local and national awards for her reporting on "Women Who Kill" and on a four-part series about teen-age pregnancy, 'Children Having Children.'" Among her many jobs at the newspaper, Ellen was a columnist for three years, Arts and Entertainment Editor, Critic-at-large and Daily Features (Everyday) Editor. She invented two sections from scratch, one of which recently morphed from Get Out, begun in 1995, to GO. In January of 2009, Ellen joined the St. Louis Jewish Light as its editor, where she is responsible for overseeing editorial operations, including managing both staff members and freelancers. Under her tutelage, the Light has won 16 Rockower Awards — considered the Jewish Pulitzer’s — including two personally for Excellence in Commentary for her weekly News & Schmooze column. She also is the communications content editor for the Arts and Education Council of St. Louis. Ellen and her husband, Jeff Burkett, a middle school principal, live in Olivette and have three children. Ellen can be reached at 314-743-3669 or at [email protected].