Marilyn Spirt

Marilyn Spirt, November 28, 2020

Marilyn Spirt passed away peacefully at home on November 28 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She is survived by her sister Beverly Spirt Marmor, M.D., her three children Terry, Ben, and Rosina, and grandchildren Max, Evan, Zach, and Zara. Born and raised in Queens, Marilyn was a part of the St. Louis Jewish community for almost 50 years.

After reading James Michener’s The Source as a child, Marilyn set out to become an archaeologist. She earned her degree from Washington University and did PhD work at the University of Pennsylvania, before embarking on a career that had her leading excavations all over Israel and educating students in programs around St. Louis. She introduced her passion to her kids, all of whom have stories of summer days in Israel spent digging through history.

A renaissance woman, Marilyn also co-founded a foreign auto parts business that served the area for 30 years, and later played executive roles in several local nonprofits. She brought dedication, innovation, outspokenness, and a little bit of chutzpah to each, and she left each one better than she found it. Most notably, she masterminded the expansion of the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis into the enterprise that it is today, pioneering many of the ideas that remain its mainstays.

Marilyn’s interest in history and culture translated into a love of travel. As a child, she sailed with her parents on the Queen Mary and traveled to Europe, the Caribbean, South America, and Israel. Even health challenges in recent years couldn’t stop her from traversing Portugal, Spain, England, Morocco, Denmark, Singapore, and Hong Kong in her signature sandals with her daughter.

Friends and family recall her positive outlook even in the face of hardship – a favorite refrain was Baruch Hashem yom yom – as much as her frequent hosting of delicious Shabbat and holiday meals. Many of all ages have a favorite gift from Marilyn and knew her as an especially considerate gift-giver; this Chanukah is a little less bright for want of her advice on the most thoughtful presents.

Marilyn’s family asks that contributions in her memory be made to the Lustgarten Foundation, the largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research.