Rosenberg mans track’s starting line


It was b’shert. Twenty-six years ago, Harry S. Rosenberg was ready to participate in the St. Louis Senior Olympics as an athlete when he was asked to start a couple of races before his event.

“I ended up never competing,” Rosenberg said. “I missed competing at first, until I realized how much I enjoyed what I was doing. It’s been great.”

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Rosenberg said he was a pretty fair track man in high school. The Clayton High School graduate primarily participated in the 50-yard dash, 100-yard dash, 220-yard dash and the long jump winning a number of meets and events.

After high school, Rosenberg went to work for the family business: the Universal Match Corporation. The company made its reputation by adding advertising to matchbooks. It was called “the second biggest matchmaker” in the United States in an article in Time magazine in 1950.

When his family sold the business, Rosenberg’s father, uncle and others created a real estate company and purchased property in Crestwood. Rosenberg and some friends purchased the Ritepoint company which manufactured promotional products. He became the vice president and later president of the company.

Though he ostensibly retired in 1980, Rosenberg is still involved in that industry to this day. He became a marketing consultant and helps people create and grow their own businesses. He has spent 55 years in the industry and was inducted into the Promotional Products Association International Hall of Fame in 1983.

This year Rosenberg celebrates his 81st birthday and will still be found at the starting line continuing his job as the track starting official.

“This is probably the top Senior Olympics in country,” Rosenberg said.

He sees friends he went to high school with competing in the games along with competitors coming from all over the country.

“There is a nun who comes to visit her family in St. Louis from Oregon and she competes when she’s in town,” Rosenberg said. “Former Olympic medal winners Helen Stephens and Harry Keough have also competed in our St. Louis Games.”

As the track starting official, Rosenberg starts all the races and assigns the lanes and heats for the dash events with his assistant Tommy Lasker. Volunteers time each runner and athletes compete in their own age groups.

“The volunteers yell out the time at every lap and encourage the runners,” Rosenberg said.

This year the track and field events are taking place at John Burroughs School. Rosenberg said he knows there are many good athletes in St. Louis and the source of potential participants has widened with the age of eligibility dropping to 50-years-old.

“It is so great just to see seniors participating in these events,” Rosenberg said. “It’s a great way to stay in shape and many of the athletes travel to other Senior Olympic events around the country.”

Rosenberg has lived in St. Louis all his life. This year he and his wife Virginia will celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary. They have two children, six grandchildren, one great-grandchild and one more on the way.

In 1996 Rosenberg received Doc Eberhardt Memorial Award which is given to individuals who exemplify the qualities of the St. Louis Senior Olympics.

“I look forward to the Senior Olympics and seeing the competitors and crews every year,” Rosenberg said. “It is great to see the older generation active and interesting, not dormant. It’s quite outstanding.”