Gene B. Pattiz, 89, was engineer, civil rights advocate, U.H. showman

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

Gene B. Pattiz never let anything, including debilitating illness slow him down. An avid bowler, he kept up his schedule with three bowling leagues, and when illness struck, he continued with a walker and later a wheelchair. Mr. Pattiz, an engineer, World War II veteran and a longtime enthusiastic participant in congregational shows at United Hebrew Congregation, died Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 at Delmar Gardens West nursing home in Town and Country. He was 89 and suffered from congestive heart failure, according to family members.

Gene Burton Pattiz was born in East St. Louis, the son of the late Simon and the late Sadie Pattiz. His father was a sales supervisor at Emerson Electric and his mother a sales person at Famous-Barr. Gene Pattiz was married to the late Lucille Kaplan Pattiz for 64 years, who died two years ago. When Mr. Pattiz started high school, his family moved to University City. He was a 1940 graduate of University City High School, and in 1943 received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Washington University. Mr. Pattiz took a wartime job at McDonnell Douglas Aircraft (now Boeing). While with the firm, he helped design aircraft with tilted wings so that more could fit on aircraft carriers. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Philippines, where he trained as a code breaker. After he received a “scientific discharge” from the army, he returned to St. Louis where he became chief engineer at General Installation Co., a subcontractor that worked on the downtown post office and a space program project with McDonnell Douglas. He returned after 40 years with General Installation.

Concerned about the trend for white families to move out of University City when it became integrated, Mr. Pattiz was determined to remain a resident of the city, along with numerous other Jewish families. Mr. Pattiz purchased a new home in University City during that period. He was named a member of the first University City Commission on Human Rights, which was charged with the enforcement of the open housing ordinance in U. City, which was unique among St. Louis County municipalities at the time. He recalled to his daughter, Denise Pattiz Bogard of St. Louis, that when he returned from the Philippines with deep tan, he and his wife were asked to leave a restaurant when the owner thought they were an interracial couple.

In 1999, Mr. Pattiz was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He joined a clinical trial to test a supplement thought to slow the progress of the disease. He thought the supplement was working, but was later informed that he was among those given placebos, which contained no medication as part of a control group.At the funeral service for Mr. Pattiz last Sunday at United Hebrew Congregation, where Rabbi Howard Kaplansky officiated, along with Rabbi Briggite Rosenberg, Mr. Patiz was fondly remembered by the rabbis and family members for his unflagging determination not to let his illnesses interfere with his favorite activities.

“Gene Pattiz loved taking part as a cast member in our congregational shows, right here on the bema of United Hebrew,” recalled Rabbi Kaplansky. “In one show, he might be a lead actor, in another a dancer, and sometimes he would even dress up as a chorus girl. He laughed when people told him that what he may have lacked in acting talent he more than made up for in enthusiasm.” Rabbi Kaplansky and family members lovingly recalled that Mr. Pattiz continued his bowling until he was 87, even after he had two hip and two knee replacements, three angioplasties and one triple bypass. When he needed to use a walker and later a wheelchair, he was still able to participate in three bowling leagues.

Following the service, burial was at the United Hebrew Temple Cemetery. Survivors, in addition to his daughter, include two sons, Jay Pattiz of Warrensburg, Mo., and Perry Pattiz of Fairfield, Calif.; a sister, Dolores Silverberg of Chesterfield; and six grandchildren. Contributions in memory of Mr. Pattiz may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or to United Hebrew Congregation.