Sidney Wolff was WWII veteran, accountant, musician, magician


Sidney N. Wolff, an accountant, harmonica entertainer and onetime magician who entertained at schools and nursing homes, died Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010 of a heart ailment at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He was 89 and lived in Chesterfield.

Mr. Wolff was born in St. Louis to immigrant Jewish parents, Edward Wolff from Romania and Esther Bleich Wolff from Hungary. He worked his way through both Soldan High School, where he studied stenography and St. Louis University, where he earned a business degree. He earned tuition money by performing magic shows locally, starting what would become a long career as an entertainer.

Carolyn Siegel of Manchester, a niece, recalls that her uncle “had a rabbit and two chickens he used in his magic shows. The chickens were named Mutzi and Putzi. When times were bad, Grandma had one of them killed for dinner, but no one had the heart to eat it.”

During World War II, Mr. Wolff served in the U.S. Army in England and France, where the stenography he studied in high school came in handy. He did stenographic, accounting and administrative work while in the army.

Following the war, Mr. Wolff set up a tax consulting firm in Olivette. He continued to work until weeks before his passing.

One of Mr. Wolff’s longtime passions was playing the harmonica, entertaining at various venues in St. Louis. He founded the Gateway Harmonica Club in 1987. The group would gather at the Garavelli’s restaurant in south St. Louis, and baseball legend Stan Musial would frequently join them in playing harmonica selections.

Siegel said her uncle taught himself to play the harmonica and that he developed an upbeat and positive attitude by growing up during the Depression. “He never let anything get him down,” she said.

Mr. Wolff was a longtime member of Nusach Hari B’nai Zion Congregation in University City. In 1958 he was Grand Master of the Ben Franklin Masonic Lodge. He also served as Commander of Jewish War Veterans Post 346.

Mr. Wolff’s wife Dorothy, whom he married in 1947, died in 2007.

Graveside services were held Feb. 14 at the Chevra Kadisha Cemetery in University City.

Among the survivors are two daughters, Deanna Aron of Manchester and Linda Wolff of Olivette; two sisters, Helen Novack of Ballwin and Ethel Cohen of Town and Country; and two grandsons.

Memorial contributions may be made to a charity of the donor’s choice.