Berger Memorial plans to relocate to Olivette site

Emily Stein MacDonald and her father, Richard Stein, outside Berger Memorial at 4715 McPherson Avenue in the city’s Central West End. The business has been at that location since 1916. Photo: Yana Hotter

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

Berger Memorial Funeral Home and Chapel, which has been located in the city’s Central West End since 1916, will be moving this fall to 9450 Olive Boulevard in Olivette. It will occupy a portion of the Kriegs-hauser Mortuaries West Chapel at 9450 Olive Boulevard. 

The target date for the completion of the move is September 2013, according to Richard Stein, former owner and current location manager at Berger Memorial.

“We are only changing our physical location,” stressed Stein. All of our services and outstanding staff will be moving to the new facility, which will located more conveniently for the majority of the Jewish community. It is not where we are, it is who we are,” he added.

His daughter and business associate, Emily Stein MacDonald, explained, “the two major benefits of this upcoming move is convenience and a more central location. We will have our own separate entrance and section of the building on Olivette. That section will be remodeled as our specific site, which will be separate and apart from the other portions of the Kriegshauser facility on Olive Boulevard.

Richard Stein added that the many key installations and historic fixtures at the present Berger facility, including the Eternal Light, wooden pews, the familiar podium and lectern and bronze plaques will be transported and installed in the new facility. “We want the move to reflect both continuity and a move forward.”

Since 1993, Berger Memorial, which is currently located at 4715 McPherson Avenue, has been owned by the Dignity Memorial Network, a Houston- based firm under Service Corporation International. It owns 1,600 funeral homes and cemeteries around the nation, including Kriegshauser.  “Among them,” Stein added, “are a large number of Jewish funeral homes in cities like New York, Chicago and southern Florida, in addition to St. Louis.

“What is happening is that we are remodeling a portion of the (Kriegshauser) facility, exclusively for us,” said Stein.  “We will have our own entrance, our own chapel, our own arrangement offices, a family room, a parlor, a selection room and a tahara room, for ritual preparation for burial. As is the case currently, we will be able to continue to fully serve the entire Jewish community, including the Orthodox community, just as we have been since our inception.”

He added, “We want to make it very clear, that we will still operate as a fully independent operation. We are an independent operation sharing the new location, but with our own distinct section devoted to our clients on exactly the same basis as has been the case since we were founded.”

Stein MacDonald, who joined Berger Memorial as funeral director in 2009, is proud of being a fifth generation professional from her family to be associated with the funeral home. It was founded by Richard Stein’s great-grandfather, Henry Berger, in 1896. Berger’s son, Herbert Berger, took over the leadership of the home, which eventually passed to Richard Stein’s father, Marvin Stein, who died in 1970.

“I am very proud of the legacy of the Stein family with Berger Memorial through its many years of service in the past, and to be part of continuing that service into the future in our new location,” Stein MacDonald said. She had been working in public relations before approaching her father to express an interest in joining the staff of the funeral home.

Regarding the upcoming move, Richard Stein said, “We have been thinking about this for a long time. We reached out to rabbis across the board, all of whom have been very supportive. They have been assured that all of our practices and procedures will be exactly the same and that all of the ritual requirements for all streams of Judaism will be accommodated.

Added Stein MacDonald, “We are not, and never have been, defined by our physical location. Instead we are defined by our professionalism, dedicated and compassionate staff and long record of service to the Jewish community of St. Louis, which will continue without interruption once the move is completed. It’s not where we are — it is who we are.”

Richard Stein admitted that he has a strong emotional attachment to the existing facility on McPherson Avenue, which has not as yet been sold. “This is the only place I have ever worked, since I began there in 1968. We have been pleased to be part of the Central West End, which in recent years has again become a vibrant district for the city of St. Louis. Of course it will be hard to say ‘goodbye’ to our original location, but we are really looking forward to this move in order to better serve the Jewish community of St. Louis.”