Ralph Kalish, 63; was noted lawyer, restaurateur, mentor

Ralph W. Kalish, Jr.

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

Ralph W. Kalish Jr., an internationally noted lawyer, writer and co-creator of Crushed Red restaurant, died Sunday, May 4, after collapsing during a bicycle trip near the Chain of Rocks Bridge.  He was 63 and a resident of St. Louis.

Mr. Kalish was a partner in the law firm of Husch Blackwell in Clayton, a member of its food and agribusiness industry team with a specialty in intellectual property.  He was known as a staunch defender of his clients’ trademarks, brands and products.

Described by associates as a Renaissance man, Mr. Kalish’s varied interests included theater, local history and the restaurant business. He was a transportation specialist for St. Louis County, and his familiarity with St. Louis streets and locales impressed his friends.  Expanding his interest in food beyond his legal practice, Mr. Kalish was a co-founder and co-owner of On the Rocks Restaurants, the parent company of the Crushed Red restaurants in Kirkwood and Clayton.

Combining his longtime interests in history and drama, Mr. Kalish wrote and starred in two one-man plays. One was about the life of James Buchanan Eads, who designed and built the Eads Bridge over the Mississippi in 1874. The second play dealt with the life of Branch Rickey, the legendary general manager of the Cardinals and the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was Branch Rickey who broke the color barrier in 1947, when he signed Jackie Robinson to play for the Dodgers. 

New Mt. Sinai Cemetery advertisement

Mr. Kalish was deeply interested in St. Louis and general American history and spent long hours researching at the Library of Congress, the Mercantile Library and the Missouri Historical Society. He was a member of the Library Association of St. Louis University, volunteered for Temple Israel and served as president of St. Luke’s Hospital.  He also recently served for four years on the Webster University School of Communications Advisory Committee.

Ralph William Kalish Jr. was the son of the late Ralph W. Kalish, who was a noted patent lawyer in St. Louis. The younger Kalish followed in his father’s footsteps and became an expert in mediation.

Mr. Kalish was a graduate of St. Louis Country Day School in 1968 and George Washington University. He earned MBA and law degrees from St. Louis University.

Mr. Kalish was a past board president of the Central Institute for the Deaf, which was founded by his great-grand-uncle, Dr. Max Goldstein. 

“Ralph Kalish was an extraordinary board member and champion for children who are deaf and hard of hearing, and the professionals who work with them,” said Robin Feder, executive director of CID. “He will be greatly missed by the CID community.”

A funeral service for Mr. Kalish was held May 9 at Temple Israel; Rabbi Amy Feder and Rabbi Michael Alper officiated. In her remarks, Feder described Mr. Kalish as “a well-respected successful patent attorney, where he followed in his father’s footsteps, a certified mediator, a certified public accountant, entrepreneur, restaurateur, playwright, actor. … Ralph was one of the most interesting, kind and generous people who ever lived.”

Feder said Mr. Kalish’s funeral was attended by more than 1,000 people. Because Mr. Kalish was a devoted baseball fan, Feder said, the service concluded with everyone singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” together.  

“It was actually quite a festive send-off that I think Ralph would have really loved,” she said.

Survivors include his wife, Eleanor Withers; three sons, Manning W. Kalish of Austin, Texas, Powell W. Kalish of Richmond Heights and Graham W. Kalish of St. Louis; two sisters, Karen Kalish of Clayton and Nan K. Goodman of Culver City, Calif.; and two stepbrothers, Carter B. Smith of Wildwood and Scott R. Smith of Himrod, N.Y.

Contributions may be made to Temple Israel (ti-stl.org); Trailnet (trailnet.org); St. Luke’s Hospital’s Beverly and Ralph Kalish Fund (stlukes-stl.com); or to the Ralph W. Kalish Jr. Fund at the Central Institute for the Deaf, 825 South Taylor Avenue, St. Louis, Mo. 63110.