Shock, sadness at Millstone’s disappearance


The unfolding news that Jewish community patriarch Isadore E. Millstone went missing over the weekend has left many simultaneously saddened and profoundly grateful for his enormous contributions during 102 years of life.

Authorities were searching the Missouri River over the weekend and on Monday after police received a report Saturday that an elderly man was seen jumping off the Daniel Boone Bridge. As the Jewish Light went to press Monday evening, Millstone had not been found. Investigators last Saturday afternoon found an unattended vehicle near the bridge that belonged to Millstone’s caregiver; authorities do not believe the caregiver had driven it there.


As recently as May 3, Millstone spoke without notes and was in apparent good health and spirits at the dedication of the Staenberg Family Complex at the Jewish Community Center, on the very grounds that Millstone purchased and donated to the community back in the 1950s.

Michael Staenberg, chairman of the JCC and the financial and leadership force for the new complex, said that Millstone was immensely grateful for the beautiful sculpture of his likeness and bas relief at the new facility done by local artist Don Wiegand.

“He told me it was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for him,” said Staenberg. “We are so fortunate for all that he had done for this community, and it is very meaningful that he could participate so beautifully in the dedication of our new building.”

Despite appearances, Staenberg indicated that Millstone was in acute pain at the dedication ceremo ny. The pain resulted from a shoulder injury he had suffered during the celebration of his 101st birthday in January 2008 at the Deer Creek Club. A family spokesman confirmed that information and added that Millstone had the flu at that birthday celebration.

A statement issued by the family on Monday said: “The man we all loved so much had suffered from anxiety. A painful shoulder injury he suffered in January 2008 was a contributing factor; beyond that, it is difficult to say, especially in a man of his years. We are continuing to pray for his safety and we ask the community to join us in our prayers.”

Staenberg, whose own vision and generosity have been compared to those of Millstone, told the St. Louis Jewish Light, “The big thing to me was that age didn’t matter to him. I am 50 years younger than he was. Yet, he still related to me. He related to people in their twenties; he related to people like Tom Green, in his seventies. He took the time to mentor and give advice to people, and inspired them to emulate him. That’s what I tried to do. He was such a great role model.”

Staenberg said he was flattered that people linked him with Millstone regarding their support of the Jewish community. “I spoke to Mr. Millstone once a week, and had lunch with him once a month,” said Staenberg. “They say history is such a great teacher, and he had such a sense of history.

“He was always telling about what happened in the 1930s, and how fortunate he was and how he wanted to give back to the community. He knew that he was lucky starting out in a well-to-do family as a young man, and managing his father-in-law Louis Gollin’s Foundation. He used his own good fortune to further enhance everyone else’s lives.”

According to Staenberg, Millstone said “it was his responsibility to follow in his father-in-law’s footsteps to improve the community through the foundation. He saw his charitable activities as a privilege, not as an obligation. And look at his grandsons. Both Tom Kuhn and Bob Millstone give a lot back to the community.”

William “Bill” Kahn, retired longtime director of the JCC and later executive vice president of the Jewish Federation, and a longtime friend and admirer, described Millstone’s many exceptional characteristics.

“Is Millstone’s energy, vitality and visionary leadership continue to amaze and inspire all of us who have had the privilege of knowing him and working with this truly unique and remarkable human being,” said Kahn.

Meanwhile, statements of concern have been issued by community leaders. On Sunday, the Jewish Federation, which named Millstone an Honorary President in 1992, issued this statement: “The entire Jewish community is united in its deep sadness, sympathy and support for the Millstone family. For decades, I. E. Millstone has been the most respected, admired and loved member of the St. Louis Jewish community. As the Honorary President of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, he has been the Patriarch of our community as well as a singular and giant figure in the St. Louis region’s business and civic life. His vision, leadership, achievements and selfless philanthropy are legendary and unparalleled. He has shaped the future of the Jewish community of St. Louis, across the United States, in Israel and around the world.”

Millstone, who was born in 1907 and raised in St. Louis, was interviewed numerous times by the Jewish Light, including in-depth interviews on the occasions of his 90th, 95th and 100th birthdays. Those interviews covered Milllstone’s accomplishments as founder and head of the Millstone Construction Co. (later Millstone Bangert, Inc.), which in 1944 began building many St. Louis public works projects and landmarks with reinforced concrete. As an international firm after World War II, the company began building office, tower, malls, bridges and highways. Among the many projects of the firm were the 1966 Busch Stadium, the Mercantile Tower and Laclede Town, a progressive housing project in midtown.

Of the many contributions which Millstone has made locally, he is perhaps best known for his bold vision to purchase the original 108 acres at Lindbergh Boulevard and Schuetz Road as the new location for the Jewish Community Center of St. Louis, formerly known as the Young Men’s/Women’s Hebrew Association. In 1954, the old “Y” was in an aging facility on Enright Avenue just north of Delmar Boulevard in the City of St. Louis. After an extensive search, during which several sites were considered, Millstone’s purchase and donation of the Lindbergh and Schuetz site was announced on July 6, 1956.

“Millstone also called his purchase and donation of the JCC grounds the best real estate development he ever made. He really had a way about him,” Staenberg said.

Kahn recalled, “When Is Millstone made that decision, there were lots of naysayers who said it was folly to buy land so far west. Jews would never travel out that far for events, many said, not knowing that the JCC Campus would become the nerve center for the entire Jewish community.”

Millstone, an engineer by education and trade, was among a handful of design and building professionals who traveled to the State of Israel in its first years of independence, helping Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion launch a major series of building projects. “We wanted to use sturdy materials that were indigenous to Israel so that the housing units would be well-built rather than temporary stop-gaps,” Millstone previously recounted to the Jewish Light. Many of those original buildings are still in use in Israel today.

In addition to his support of housing in early Israel, Millstone always generously supported the Annual Campaign of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, along with Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology and the Israel campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. An auditorium at Hebrew University and a garden at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem bear the names of Millstone and his late first wife Goldie Gollin Millstone.

Millstone has been a life member of United Hebrew Congregation. His late father Louis Millstone was the longtime executive director of United Hebrew. I.E. Millstone was honored by the congregation on the occasion of his 100th birthday, with a special “Shabbat Alive” concert by Rick Recht. Rabbis Howard Kaplansky and Brigitte Rosenberg and the late Rabbi Emeritus Jerome W. Grollman joined in the many tributes to Mr. Millstone at that celebration.

Millstone has also been a major benefactor of Washington University in St. Louis, his alma mater. Sixty students at the university receive scholarships he has sponsored. The university also has the Millstone Plaza at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences as well as the Millstone Pool. Millstone was a champion swimmer and diver as a student at the university. He is also a life member of the university’s board of trustees.

In a lengthy telephone conversation with the Light from his Florida home, Kahn said he was “shattered” over the news regarding Millstone. “Izzy Millstone was someone I truly loved,” Kahn said. “He was absolutely one-of-a-kind, and when I was involved in supporting Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement back when I started at the JCC in the late l950s and early 1960s, Is had the guts to stand up to some folks who did not want the JCC associated with the movement.

“I could talk forever about how much I cared about him and how much he meant to the Jewish people in St. Louis, in Israel and around the world. Truly an amazing, treasured man.”

Millstone’s first wife, Goldie Millstone, died in 1998, at the age of 90. The couple had two children; a daughter, Maryann Millstone Kuhn, who died in 1977 at the age of 45, and a son, David S. Millstone, who died in 2000 at the age of 64. Millstone’s second wife, Helen Millstone, died about a year ago.