David P. Sterneck, 68; hospital executive, active at Central Reform Congregation

David P. Sterneck

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

David P. Sterneck, retired longtime hospital executive with the Daughters of Charity in Boston and St. Louis, died Wednesday, June 13, 2012 of an apparent heart attack at his Chesterfield home.  He was 68 and had been a longtime resident of Chesterfield.

Nearly every seat in the sanctuary at the Central Reform Congregation was filled for the service held on Father’s Day, where Rabbis Susan Talve and Randy Fleisher officiated, with eulogies offered by family members and longtime friends.

David Paul Sterneck was born Oct. 17, 1943 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Ruth and the late Edward Sterneck. The family moved to St. Louis shortly after David’s bar mitzvah.

They lived on the 7700 block of Cornell Avenue in University City, where Mr. Sterneck graduated from Brittany Junior High School and from University City High School in 1960.  During his senior year, in biology class, he met Joy Gardner, who told Rabbi Talve that her “heart flipped” when she met him.  They were married in July 1965 and had two daughters.  

Mr. Sterneck graduated in 1964 from Washington University with a bachelor of science in business. After a brief stint selling insurance, he worked for a subsidiary of the Sherwood Medical Industries.  His career path took him to Boston where he began a 35-year tenure with a Catholic hospital, the Daughters of Charity.  

According to his brother-in-law Larry Gardner, who spoke at the service, as a Jewish professional working in a Catholic hospital system, Mr. Sterneck was well-liked and highly respected.  He was named to the hospital’s Ethics Committee in recognition of his professionalism and integrity.

The Sternecks moved back to St. Louis after 15 years in Boston. He continued his association with the Daughters of Charity hospital group, from which he retired after 35 years.  In his post-retirement he took a job as a lifeguard at the Jewish Community Center and was proud of the fact that he had also been a lifeguard at the JCC as a young man in his first paid position.

CRC Rabbi Ed Harris took note of Mr. Sterneck’s warm fulfillment of the Talmudic wisdom to “be the first to greet every person,” and “not to hold back and wait for them to greet you. “David Sterneck was the best greeter at CRC.  When he greeted you it made you feel as if you were the only person in the room…He inspired all of us to emulate his welcoming example.”

In the course of the service, Rabbi Fleisher noted, “As always there are tears, but because of David Sterneck’s love of life, family and friends, there is also laughter. Our biggest source of strength in dealing with this loss will come from our memories of and gratitude to David Sterneck himself.”

It was also pointed out that Mr. Sterneck always cheered on his wife, children and grandchildren.  Joy Sterneck, a volunteer and semi-retired physical therapist, was recently among those honored by the St. Louis Jewish Light as an “Unsung Hero,” and Mr. Sterneck was there with a bouquet of flowers to present to her for the occasion.  

Mr. Sterneck’s daughters reflected on the fact that their father’s funeral was taking place on Father’s Day, and read out the Father’s Day cards they had bought for him.  They noted that his birthday and other cards always had extensive hand-written notes of encouragement and love.  

Longtime friend Bob Lurie of Boston, Mr. Sterneck’s brother Bob Sterneck and grandchildren Bryn and Noah Sentnor and Duncan Gerlt, shared nuggets of wisdom they had learned from their grandfather.

In addition to his wife, survivors include two daughters, Jamie Sentnor (David) and Joanna Gerlt (Joshua); his mother, Ruth Sterneck (the late Edward); two brothers, Roger Sterneck (Jeri) and Bob Sterneck (Nancy Jo); and three grandchildren.

Burial was at the Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Cemetery on Ladue Road.

Memorial contributions preferred to Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman, St. Louis, Mo. 63108; Camp Rainbow, 14309 Millbriar Circle, Chesterfield, Mo. 63017 or JDRF-Metro St. Louis/Greater MO Chapter, 50 Crestwood Executive Center #301, Crestwood, Mo. 63126.