Sidney H. Guller, business leader, philanthropist dies at 96

Sidney H. Guller

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

Sidney H. Guller, a. co-founder and board chairman of Essex Industries, generous supporter of numerous causes in the Jewish and general communities, died Oct. 3, a month before his 97th birthday. 

A family statement said that Mr. Guller was “surrounded by his loving family, and that “he lived a rich and meaningful life.  Sidney was devoted to his loving family, his company Essex Industries, his fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu, his school Washington University in St. Louis, and the various organizations and boards on which he served.”

Sidney Henry Guller was born in St. Louis on Nov. 19, 1923, the son of Louis and Fannie Kappicio Guller. His wife of 34 years was the late Bobette “Bobbi” Blumoff Guller, who died in 2010.

Mr. Guller was a 1947 graduate of Washington University with a Bachelor of Science in business administration. He was a longtime supporter of the Olin Business School and its students. He established the Bobbi and Sidney Guller classroom and the Guller Scholarships, which continue his legacy.

Mr. Guller was a proud member of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. He served as national president of the fraternity and attended 70 national conventions, the most of any member. 

Mr. Guller and his late brother Harold built Essex Industries 73 years ago, and he remained involved as board chairman, continuing to come into the office until the COVID-19 shutdown in early 2020.          

“Sidney was admired by all who knew him for his honesty, humbleness, humor and generosity. He lived a rich life, and his loss is felt profoundly,” a family member said.

Evan Waldman, CEO of Essex Industries and a grandson of Mr. Guller, told the Jewish Light that he was grateful to him as a grandson and as a business role model. Essex Industries designs and manufactures highly engineered products for the aerospace and defense industries.

“I have fond memories of working with my grandfather at Essex for 16 years. He had a sharp financial mind and led with the utmost integrity,” Waldman said. “His character earned him unequivocal respect and admiration. He loved being around his Essex family and celebrating successes with them.” 

Waldman said Mr. Guller “was a compassionate grandfather who always made time for his grandkids and all of our childhood events. When I graduated from the Olin Business School, I recall he had secured a spot first in line to greet the graduates and tell me how proud he was.”

Mr. Guller was the father and father-in-law of Deni Kronenberg (Joel), Jody Waldman (Mickey), Nanci Seigel Manson (Roy), and Robyn Levy-Marino (Mark Miller).  He had nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Mr. Guller’s funeral was held Tuesday at Berger Memorial Chapel, where Rabbi Noah Arnow of Kol Rinah and Rabbi Jim Bennett of Congregation Shaare Emeth officiated.

In his eulogy, Rabbi Bennett noted Mr. Guller “was so deeply satisfied to quietly, without show or recognition, give generously to help others, his people and our world.” 

“Sidney would do anything for anyone, and often did. He was a deeply committed and proud member of the Jewish community and was always there – he just didn’t want the attention and public accolades of doing tzedakah.  He just wanted to do what needed to be done,” Bennett said, noting his generous support of the Technion Society, Jewish Family & Children’s Service (now Jewish Family Services) and especially the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, among other organizations. 

“He loved to feed people, anonymously,” Bennett said. “This past Rosh Hashanah he paid for 300 kosher meals through the Kornblum Food Pantry for those in need – anonymously, of course.”

Bennett said Mr. Guller was “a gentle giant of our community – he was a larger than life presence who is already missed, because he did so much to bring blessing to our world. We often say Zecher Tzadik Livracha — may the memory of this righteous person be a blessing. Sidney Guller’s memory is blessing us all already.”

In his eulogy, Rabbi Noah Arnow noted Mr. Guller’s impact at local congregations including Kol Rinah.

“As others have noted, Sidney, and the entire Guller Family were and are modest people. Chapels, not sanctuaries, have been their kinds of spaces.  There has long been a Guller Chapel at Congregation B’nai Amoona.  At Shaare Zedek, there was for many decades a Guller Chapel. And I’m so grateful to Sidney and to the entire family that there is a beautiful Guller Chapel at Kol Rinah’s new building in Clayton,” Arnow said. “Sidney was one of the first people to understand our vision, and his was an early and completely transformative gift that made our campaign and new synagogue home possible. Sidney leaves an amazing legacy with our congregation, and with so many organizations throughout the community, and the nation.”  

Attendance at the funeral service was limited to protect the health and safety of others. Burial was at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery on White Road. 

Memorial contributions preferred to the ALS Association, St. Louis Chapter, Sigma Alpha Mu Foundation’s Bobbi and Sidney Guller Leadership Development Fund or the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.