Charles B. Baron, 91; lawyer, supporter of education, Mideast peace

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Charles B. Baron, longtime St. Louis lawyer and supporter of innovative education and efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, died Friday, Dec. 25. He was 91 and a lifetime resident of the St. Louis area, most recently of Chesterfield.

Mr. Baron was named an “Unsung Hero” by the St. Louis Jewish Light in 2011 in recognition of his work in education and efforts toward Mideast peace.

Mr. Baron was a supporter of St. Louis public schools, especially the Innovative Concept Academy, which serves at-risk youth. It is a collaborative effort among the public schools, MERSGoodwill and the Juvenile Division of the Family Court.

For years, Mr. Baron was instrumental in selecting participants for Seeds of Peace, a program that sends young people from local Jewish and Arab communities to a summer camp in Maine, along with teens from Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The goal is for them to develop leadership skills that Mr. Baron said would “promote peaceful coexistence” between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a 2011 interview with the Jewish Light, Mr. Baron called Seeds of Peace “a unique organization” and said that those who have undergone the training have told him about its effect.

“It has had an influence on their lives, their careers, and it was personally invaluable to them because it gave them insights they never would have had,” he said at the time.

Mr. Baron also served for many years as chairman of the Simon Foundation, which administers funds given to various charities and causes from money left by Mildred Simon, a longtime friend.

Another longtime friend of Mr. Baron, Lois Goldring, who knew him for more than 40 years, told of her admiration of Mr. Baron’s generous support of numerous causes and his focus on seeing the good in others.  

“He’s generous, not just in terms of money but also generous in terms of how he views people,” she said.  “I’ve never met anybody who really finds good in everybody he meets.  It’s a marvelous quality.”  

Goldring said Mr. Baron served as a catalyst to bring people of diverse views together.

Mr. Baron was also an active volunteer for the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and its annual campaign, having served as its board secretary and as associate chair of its Keystone Division.  He served on the board of Camp Sherwood Forest and was chairman of the Youth Project of the Metropolitan Youth Commission.  He also served on the board of Jewish Hospital (now Barnes-Jewish), was a member of the St. Louis County Welfare Commission, and was a member of the Missouri Bar and the St. Louis Bar Association.

Charles Bates Baron was born April 10, 1924, in St. Louis, son of David and Molly Marshak Baron. Mr. Baron received his undergraduate degree from Amherst College and his law degree from Yale Law School. He was a law partner in his own firm, Baron & Freed, which would later merge with what is now Thompson Coburn.

His wife, Betty Dee Leventhal Baron, died in 2005.  

In addition to his various community and educational activities, Mr. Baron was an early activist in the civil rights movement in St. Louis. In the 1960s, before local restaurants were integrated, Mr. Baron and the local African-American civil rights leader Norman Seay went to lunch at the counter at Stix, Baer & Fuller. He jokingly recalled that he could not remember what they had for lunch but that it was “a good lunch.”

Mr. Baron also set up a dialogue group in the Maplewood Business District where people gathered to discuss ways of lessening the racial divide in greater St. Louis.

Survivors include four children: Frederick Baron (Kathy), John Baron (Susanne), Susan Baron and Douglas “Dugie” Baron (Lisa); brothers Morton Baron (Norma) and Harold Baron (Paula); and 10 grandchildren.

Funeral services were held at Berger Memorial Chapel, where Rabbi Moshe Shulman of Young Israel Congregation officiated.  Burial was at the New Mount Sinai Cemetery.

Contributions preferred to Memory Care Home Solutions, 4389 W. Pine Blvd., 63108.