Women of Worth to be honored

Wow! What a wonderful class of classy women have been nominated as the Older Women’s League’s 2007 Women of Worth (WOW). They are, in alphabetical order, Gladys Barker, Cynthia Kagan Frohlichstein, Susie Knopf, Rosetta Kyles, Kathy Lass, Delores McMillan, Janet Scott, Elizabeth Shreffler, Fran Sisson and Audrey Tegethoff. Of these ten outstanding women, five are Jewish. Add to this prestigious list Mary Strauss who is receiving OWL’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Arlen Chaleff, co-chair of the WOW dinner on Oct. 10 and a past recipient of the WOW Award. Furthermore, Washington University’s Lifelong Learning Institute, spawned by a lot of Jewish inspiration especially from women like Henrietta Freedman, will be given a special Community Award. Are they Jewish overachievers or is it simply part of our ethic to contribute to the well-being of the community?

OWL, the voice of midlife and older women, is the only grassroots national organization that focuses exclusively on issues unique to women as they age. It is dedicated to achieving economic and social equality for all women through legislative action at the local, state and national levels. St. Louis Gateway Chapter projects include a pension center, health care, divorce support and preserving Social Security and Medicare. Attendance at the Women of Worth dinner will honor the women selected because they exemplify Owl’s mission to improve the lives of mid-life and older women through advocacy, education and service and will also help support their mission. The 17th annual WOW Awards Banquet on Wednesday, Oct. 10 is to be held at the downtown Missouri Athletic Club at 6 p.m. Senator Rita Days, the first African-American state senator to be elected from St. Louis County, will be the speaker. For reservations at $65 per person send your check to OWL, 2165 Hampton Avenue, St. Louis MO 63139 or call 314-725-5862.

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Gladys Barker, former president of the Miriam Foundation and an OASIS class coordinator for 24 years, is a remarkable 90-year-old woman, and as I say that I can’t believe it. Trained originally as an occupational therapist, Gladys returned to school at age 55 to earn a master’s degree in geriatrics. Her community involvement ranges from helping children with developmental disabilities and behavior disorders to facilitating seminars for the Lifelong Learning institute at Washington University.

Cynthia Kagan Frohlichstein, travel writer, children’s book author and consummate communicator, has an interesting past as an actress, teacher, prize winning journalist and totally involved breast cancer survivor. She works tirelessly to raise funds for cancer research. Recently Cynthia published a book for youngsters, Perils of the Peanut Butter Kid, and will donate a portion of the profits to the International Wellness Community. She is a member of several boards including American Medical Center and the St. Louis Breast Cancer Coalition.

Susie Knopf, volunteer president of the Susan B. Komen Foundation, is dedicated to the cause of early detection and research to provide a cure for breast cancer. Her compassion and knowledge were born of her own diagnosis and difficult treatment in 1991. Since that time Susie had devoted her energy to enriching the lives of women through breast cancer awareness, fund raising and promotion of special events. She was an early member of the St. Louis Breast Cancer Coalition as well as the Wellness Community, American Medical Center, and Jewish Hospital Auxiliary and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research.

Kathy Lass, director of International Services for the American Red Cross, began her life of service as a 16-year-old when she received her first award for exemplary service from the Rotary Club. In college, she was a member of the Congress for Racial Equality, and at age 21 she was part of the March on Selma, learning the ropes from such giants as Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy. Later at the Red Cross she worked with Holocaust survivors and their families to trace the fate of loved ones. Today, because of her work at the Red Cross, Kathy negotiates complex mazes in order to help the many refugees who come through her door.

Fran Sisson is the last but not least of the Jewish women who will be honored at the Women of Worth dinner. In fact, Fran could be Owl’s WOW poster girl. In the 1960’s she became a charter member of the National Organization for Women and was involved with the NAACP and the effort for the Equal Rights Amendment. I have known her for a lot of years from Jewish Family and Children’s Service where, as program administrator she initiated and secured funding for a host of social service programs such as the Department of Services for Older Adults, Adults with Special Needs, women’s support groups, the Volunteer Money Management, protective services, respite care, senior housing and on and on.

In my column a few weeks ago I wrote about Mary Strauss, St. Louis’ first lady of the theater who will receive Owl’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

As one of the co-owners of the Fox Theatre and Fox Theatricals, Mary has won three Tony Awards for Broadway productions.

She has spent her life promoting and supporting the arts in St. Louis where she is on the boards of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Art Museum, Dance St. Louis, Cinema St. Louis and many others.

As a former recipient of the WOW award, I am truly proud to be joined by these outstanding women.