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

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

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Inspiration ignites triumph at the St. Louis Senior Olympics

The St. Louis Senior Olympics kicked off the 2024 event on Friday, May 24 with participants carrying the Olympics torch from the Jewish Community Center fitness facility to the Staenberg Family Complex Arts & Education Building. Along the way, the torch was passed to a representative of each age group. In the 60-to-70-year old group, Scott Schwartz performed the honors. Schwartz, a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth, was preparing for a busy Memorial Day weekend.

Scott Schwartz (Bill Motchan)

Scott Schwartz

“I’m overseeing the 9-hole golf event and the closest-to-the-pin golf event,” said Schwartz, 68. “I’ll be keeping track of scores in those events, but I also participate in 28 events—I’m kind of a freak. This is my 14th year. I worked up to that many events. The first year I participated in five events that I thought I could be competitive in. I won three medals and I was hooked. I train all year long and practice. I like the camaraderie, competing, just being active and staying in shape.”

Lester Seligman

Wisdom comes with age, and St. Louis Senior Olympian has learned one important thing after years of competing: choose your events wisely. Seligman, 92, especially enjoys the weight-lifting competition, and he trains at the J diligently for the event.

Lester Seligman (Bill Motchan)

“For a while I was in another event the day before weight lifting,” said Seligman. “That event was the javelin throw. One year, I threw the javelin so hard, I threw my shoulder out, so I gave that up.”

During the 2024 Senior Olympics opening ceremonies, Seligman got a surprise. The J announced the creation of the Lester Seligman Long Life and Health Award. His regular trainer Denny Rubin announced the award and said, “Some people see the Senior Olympics as a fun and challenging weekend, others see it as motivation to live a healthy, active life. One person has lived his life this way. That man is Lester Seligman. Lester devotes himself to staying healthy, fit and active. This is why we’ve established this new award.”

George Ruh

Another new Senior Olympics Award was also announced during the opening ceremonies, honoring longtime volunteer George Ruh, who is now participating in his 27th year. Stephanie Rhea, Senior Olympics coordinator, said the J depends on its donors and volunteers to make sure that every year the event runs smoothly.

George Ruh and Stephanie Rhea (Bill Motchan)

“Our volunteers run events and serve on committees,” Rhea said. “Donors give generously to ensure that the St. Louis Senior Olympics are not only great, but longstanding. George Ruh embodies all of what I just said. His drive to stay active, and generosity and time and money dedicated to the vision of these games is noteworthy. This is why today, we’re establishing a new award, for people just like George. The George Ruh Dedication Award, for your dedication to the St. Louis Senior Olympics.

Gale Kohn (Bill Motchan)

Gale Kohn

If there’s a ball, frisbee, washer or anything else you can throw at the St. Louis Senior Olympics, Gale Kohn is likely to be competing. Kohn, 70, enjoys everything about participating in the annual competition, which she’s competed in for 20 years.

“I get to stay active and meet all these people, including some who come out every year so I see them again,” said Kohn, a member of United Hebrew Congregation. She also has a box of medals she’s won over two decades.

Kohn selects events she’s good at, which usually involving tossing an object. This year, she’s already won a gold medal in cornhole and washers. She also participated in bowling, bocce, frisbee throw and softball and football distance-accuracy throw. Shuffleboard may be her only event without a ball.

She especially enjoys bowling, and is in a fall league, where she carries a 147 average, but she’s bowled a number of 200-plus games.

“My captain likes my average because I get something like a 62-pin handicap,” she confided.

Bob Riley

Bob Riley and Phuong Nguyen (Bill Motchan)

Bob Riley and Phuong Nguyen enjoyed their road trip from St. Louis back to their home in Kansas City on Saturday, May 25. Both took back medals from the St. Louis Senior Olympics. The duo came to town to participate in the table tennis singles and doubles. Riley, 86, won gold in both. Nguyen, 82, Riley’s friend and coach, took second in the singles and gold in doubles with Riley as his partner.

“This is my second time participating here,” said Riley. “I started when I was 78. I played tennis most of my life, but my knees got bad and I switched to pickleball. There was something about pickleball that wasn’t right for me. I thought, you know what, back when I was 8 or 9 years old, I played a lot of ping-pong at the YMCA and I was pretty good at it.

“So I got involved in table tennis and this is my seventh year playing,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of good luck with it.”

Closing the games on the track

A cool breeze, low humidity and occasional buzzing cicadas greeted the St. Louis Senior Olympics competitors on Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day), the final full day of events. The 1,500-meter power walk was a popular track event that drew participants in nearly every age group.

Marilyn Ratkin

Marilyn Ratkin, competing in the women’s power walk in the age 80-85 group, had never tried it before but thought it would be fun.

“I’m pretty excited about it!” said Ratkin, a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth and former Jewish Light Unsung Hero. “I enjoy the camaraderie of the Senior Olympics. And I have my own gallery—my husband and my granddaughter.”

As Ratkin was power walking her way to a gold medal, Steve Kamenetzky, a member of Shaare Emeth, warmed up alongside Guy Dauphin for the men’s version of the event. Dauphin, a five-year Senior Olympics veteran, has a collection of 18 medals (11 gold, six silver and one bronze) coming into the 2024 competition.

Guy Dauphin and Steve Kamenetzky

“I just love the competition and love the people, great people,” Dauphin said.

Steve Mauchenhiemer was a first-time competitor in the 400-meter run, where he took gold. It just one of 13 total events he planned to participate in, including five running and three jumping events.

Steve Mauchenheimer

“I imagine I’ll do it again next year,” Mauchenheimer said. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s always nice to meet people. Everybody does their best, but nobody’s out for blood.”



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About the Contributor
Bill Motchan, writer/photographer
Bill worked in corporate communications for AT&T for 28 years. He is a former columnist for St. Louis Magazine. Bill has been a contributing writer for the Jewish Light since 2015 and is a three-time winner of the Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish Journalism. He also is a staff writer for the travel magazine Show-Me Missouri. Bill grew up in University City. He now lives in Olivette with his wife and cat, Hobbes. He is an avid golfer and a fan of live music. He has attended the New Orleans Jazzfest 10 times and he has seen Jimmy Buffett in concert more t han 30 times between 1985 and 2023.