Remembering a friend who battled Alzheimer’s

When Barbara Kurtz passed away on April 21, her death went almost unnoticed. A brilliant attorney and wannabe Shakespeare scholar, Barbara had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s which robbed her of her mental ability, her sense of humor, her charm, her warmth and, perhaps the most tragic, her caring for others. For many months she had been “stored” in a nursing facility and, except for her son’s attention, Barbara had been basically forgotten. My gut response to her death was “Good. Now she is released from the hell in which she was living.”

Barbara Goldberg Kurtz was my oldest friend. We met as five and six year olds at a Temple Israel Religious School party and I remember her as the prettiest girl I had ever seen, a beauty with long corkscrew curls. In school she was a debater, an actress and an outstanding student who went on to college and law school and to work for the United States Ordinance District as a lawyer. During World War II, I introduced Barbara to Sym Kurtz, a handsome G.I. from Texas who she married after the war and with whom she had Cindy and Andy.


Barbara was the first of my friends to become a full-time working mother. She became an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in St. Louis County and later the first Director of the county’s Consumer Protection Division. She found time to volunteer for various organizations and served as president of The Delcrest, now Crown Center for Senior Living. Barbara was a dedicated member of The Pioneers, a serious book study group, and later became deeply involved with Lifelong Learning at Washington University, taking course after course but concentrating especially on Shakespeare. Travel, bridge and multitudinous friends were all a major part of her life. Sadly, Barbara lost Sym, Cindy, her sister Miriam Straus (Jay) and her brother Herman Gram (Suzanne) and, at the end of her life, the great tragedy was losing her mind. However those of us who knew her when and well will remember her with admiration and love.

On the subject of Alzheimer’s, join the Alzheimer’s Association, St. Louis Chapter, for an evening of “edutainment” as That Uppity Theatre Company uses performance to nurture awareness, promote insight, and empower caregivers at this year’s Joanne Parrish Knight Caregiver Conference. The theater company will use an innovative technique called Playback Theater to involve and unite the audience by enacting moments of joy, confusion, love, and frustration from the care giving experience.

Company Director Joan Lipkin explains that “Caregiving can feel isolating. In this performance, the audience will see elements of commonalities. They’ll see different coping mechanisms and even share laughter. Caregivers need to feel understood and supported and to see their lives valued and reflected back to them in new ways. This performance really honors the lives of the caregivers.”

The 7 p.m. program takes place Thursday, May 28, at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Road. A question and answer session with experts and family panelists will follow the program. Those interested can register online at or by calling 314-801-0452. The cost is $15.

Congratulations to St. Louisans Barbara Shuman, Jill Mirowitz Mogil and Sharon Harris Pollack for recently winning “Best Heartland Feature” at the Kansas City Film Festival for their documentary, The Stem Cell Divide.

The award recognized The Stem Cell Divide as the best feature film, either documentary or narrative (fictional) feature, produced and directed by a filmmaker based in either Missouri or Kansas. The film was screened last year at the St. Louis International Film Festival.

The Second Annual Cap and Gown Ball to be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 6 at the Washington University Field House, 330 N. Big Bend will celebrate the remarkable achievement of College Bound’s high school graduating class. Forty- one seniors from different high schools in the city and county have risen above extraordinary obstacles to become the first in their families to gain admission to and one day graduate from four-year colleges. College Bound raises funds from the Cap and Gown Ball to provide promising high school students from under-resourced backgrounds with the academic enrichment, life skills and social supports needed to succeed in four-year colleges. A unique program started three years ago by volunteers led by Erika Zoll, it is the only one in the St. Louis region with a year-round curriculum that includes career exposure, community engagement, test preparation and academic enrichment so that students not only get to college, they succeed in college. Chairs for the 2009 event are Peggy and Lee Kaplan, Julie and William Shearburn and Carol and Michael Staenberg. Reservations at $150 per person, $75 for young friends under thirty-five, may be made by calling 314-602-1699.

Simply Sinatra, a program for young and old who are simply mad for Frank Sinatra, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 13 at Powell Symphony Hall. Steve Lippia, who has established himself as one of the finest interpreters of standards and traditional pop music, will be accompanied by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Together they will present The Sinatra Songbook. Tickets ranging from $20 to $75 may be purchased online at or in person at the Powell Hall box office.