Grief, shock after Creve Coeur killing

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

Susan Edith Schaffer, owner of a specialized exercise studio and single mother of three, died Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008, in an apparent homicide in her Creve Coeur home. She was 48.

Ms. Schaffer’s friends and family members expressed great admiration for her and shock, grief and deep concern over the tragic circumstances of her death.

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Creve Coeur police have reported that Ms. Schaffer apparently interrupted a burglary at her home, and was shot to death by the intruders. Two suspects, both 17, who had attended Parkway North High School with her children, have been charged in the case.

Ms. Schaffer was the owner of Spiral Power, a studio in an office building at 7700 Clatyon Road in Richmond Heights that focuses on a form of movement and exercise similar to pilates.

Ms. Schaffer raised three children by herself after her divorce 14 years ago, according to her brother, Eric, who was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Her three children have the same last name as their father, Wenig.

Rachel Wenig, 23, is a paralegal in New York City. Daniel Wenig, 18, and Sarah Wenig, 16, are students at Parkway North High School. Four years ago, Sarah Wenig became a bat mitzvah at Congregation Shaare Emeth. Rabbi Jim Bennett of Congregation Shaare Emeth recalled that Rabbi Annie Belford of the congregation had worked with Ms. Schaffer and her daughter Sarah Wenig in preparing for the bat mitzvah.

Rabbi Bennett told the St. Louis Jewish Light that he was “deeply saddened over Susan Schaffer’s tragic passing,” and extended his “deepest condolences and that of the entire congregation” to her family. Rabbi Belford said, “When I think of Susan, I remember most that she was full of life. She was a passionate woman — fiercely dedicated to her children and friends, loving her work, and always seeking to reach ever higher. It was a joy to be in her presence and a joy to know her. She will be missed so much.”

Eric Schaffer was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by Patrick M. O’Connell as saying of his sister, “She was one of the most beautiful people in the world. She was caring and loving, a selfless person, a wonderful mother, the best daughter, a great sister and a great aunt. It’s a tragedy that we have lost such a beautiful person in such random way.”

Sue Baseley, temple administrator at B’nai El Congregation, a longtime close friend of Ms. Schaffer, said, “I knew her very well. She was a really great, wonderful person, so effervescent. She literally would light up any room she entered. She was a close and dear friend, and all of Susan’s friends will miss her very much.”

Ms. Schaffer’s family described her as a “liftetime fitness buff.” She began her career as a dancer before becoming an aerobics and pilates instructor, which she has done for more than 25 years. She grew up in Great Neck, N.Y., and graduated from Skidmore College in upstate New York.

Ms. Schaffer’s parents and her brother arrived in St. Louis from the East Coast last Wednesday and are caring for her children. David Schaffer, her father, told the P-D, “We’re coping by just trying to be together and be there for everyone. It’s not easy, but we’re doing the best we can and we will eventually get through this together.”

A family statement said, Ms. Schaffer “lived a passionate life, devoted to teaching health, fitness and love for family.”

Funeral services were held Sunday, Dec. 21, at Temple Beth El, Great Neck, N.Y. Among the speakers at the service were Julie Eisenberg of St. Louis, a longtime friend of Ms. Schaffer, and Alvin Glazier of St. Louis, her life partner. Eisenberg told the St. Louis Jewish Light that she had met and become friends with Ms. Schaffer when Eisenberg’s daughter Danielle and Ms. Schaffer’s daughter Sarah were in first grade; they are now in 10th grade.

In her remarks at the service, Eisenberg said, “From the first time I met Susan, we both knew that there was something very special there. Our friendship evolved into our being ‘full sisters.’ I will miss, you, Susan. I will miss your sparkle, your compassion, your contagious energy, your inner and outer beauty, your warmth, your passion and your independent spirit. You were unique. There will never be anyone else like you. Susan brought out the best in me. She allowed space for me to shine and grow. As was the case after the tragedy in Mumbai, we hope that in her memory, we can spread some good in our troubled world by giving to the Jewish Food Pantry in Susan’s memory.”

In his remarks at the service, Alvin Glazier said, “Suze enriched the lives of everyone that was fortunate enough to know her. Her uniqueness, zest for life, passion and beauty, both inside and out, made her unforgettable. The most precious gem will live on in our hearts and thoughts forever. She brought me the greatest joy of my life. She was my soul-mate. Love forever. A.J.”

The family and friends of Ms. Schaffer are planning a St. Louis service in her honor and to celebrate her life for early 2009.

Among the survivors are her parents, David and Lois Schaffer of Great Neck, N.Y.; three children, Rachel Wenig of New York City and Daniel Wenig and Sarah Wenig of Creve Coeur; a brother, Eric Schaffer, and life partner, Alvin Glazier.

Contributions may be made to the Jewish Family and Childrens Service Jewish Food Pantry, 10959 Schuetz Road, St. Louis, Mo. 63146.