Berger was lumber firm exec, WWII Army veteran


Joseph Berger II, a retired lumber firm executive and veteran of World War II who was known for his ready sense of humor, died Wednesday, March 3, 2010, of heart and kidney disease at Springbridge Rehab and Wellness Center in Chesterfield. He was 85 and lived in Westwood Village and Naples, Fla.

Mr. Berger graduated from University City High School in 1942, and attended the University of Missouri. He joined the U.S. Army after the dean announced that anyone who enlisted would get a full semester’s credit for the courses.

Mr. Berger became a sergeant responsible for directing air traffic with the Army Air Forces in London and Germany.

Mr. Berger returned home after the war and married the former Elaine Goldstein. They had met at a hayride.

Mr. Berger became a senior vice president at United Lumber Co., owned by his wife’s family. He helped expand the company in 11 locations in Missouri and Illinois, and enter into prefabricated housing. After the firm was sold in 1969, Mr. Berger joined Solon Gershman Inc., real estate as a vice president.

Mr. Berger was remembered by family and friends for his sense of humor and for playing practical jokes. His son Fred said, “He had a great time and enjoyed life.”

Mr. Berger also taught himself to play the piano.

A lifetime golfer, Mr. Berger was proud of the fact that he had scored six holes in one, even noting the accomplishment on his personalized license plates, marked “six aces.”

During the Hanukkah and Christmas seasons, Mr. Berger donated $1,000 in $20 bills to people who needed help.

Mr. Berger was a former board member of Temple Israel, the Child Guidance Clinic at Washington University and secretary of the Children’s Research Foundation.

Funeral services were held Sunday at New Mt. Sinai Cemetery and Mausoleum, 8430 Gravois Road.

In addition to his son, Fred, of Westwood, survivors include his wife, Elaine Berger; a daughter, Kathryn Hammer of Clayton; a brother, Thomas Berger of Los Angeles, and five grandchildren.