Sklar was businessman, active in Jewish organizations

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

Richard M. Sklar, longtime owner of the Ely E. Yawitz Co., which sold alteration supplies to major retailers, and who was an active member of Congregation B’nai Amoona and of B’nai B’rith, died Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009 of complications from colon cancer after a two-year battle with the disease. He was 67 and a longtime resident of St. Louis. He was warmly remembered by family members and friends for his personal qualities of integrity, cheerfulness, love of family and loyalty to friends.

Richard Milton (Dick) Sklar was born in St. Louis on June 26, 1942. He graduated from University City High School in 1960, and Washington University in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Long admired for his strong work ethic, Mr. Sklar worked full time at Bettendorff’s grocery store while in college. He was a founding member of the Phi Sigma Delta social fraternity chapter at Washington University and served as its second president.

After graduation from Washington U., Mr. Sklar worked as a salesman for the Tension Envelope Company for two years in Cincinnati, where he met Annette, his wife of 42 years. They moved back to St. Louis, where Mr. Sklar continued for another 14 years working for the Tension Envelope Company.

In 1981, Mr. Sklar started working as a salesman for his uncle, Irving Feldman, in the family business, Ely E. Yawitz Co., selling alteration supplies and Velcro all over the United States. His clients included Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.

Mr. Sklar worked at Ely E. Yawitz Co. for seven years before he bought the business from his uncle in 1988. He owned the company, which he operated with his wife, according to his son Randy. “Dad went into work on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, less than a week before he passed,” Randy Sklar said.

Mr. Sklar was a lifelong member of Congregation B’nai Amoona, where he celebrated his bar mitzvah. He served for 17 years on the B’nai Amoona Board of Directors. He also served during the 1960s as president of the Ebn Ezra Lodge of B’nai B’rith. Mr. Sklar’s parents, the late Abe and the late Pearl Sklar, were also active members of B’nai Amoona, and his wife Annette Sklar had an adult bat mitzvah in 1983 with six other adult women there. The Sklars’ twin sons, Randy and Jason, also celebrated their bar mitzvahs at B’nai Amoona.

Recalling his father’s life, Randy Sklar said, “Dad grew up in St. Louis and except for the two years in the mid-60s when he met my mother in Cincinnati, he lived his entire life in St. Louis. He was proud of this city and had season tickets for the woeful St. Louis football Cardinals. He went to his first World Series game in 2006 when he, my wife Amy and I had the joy of watching Chris Carpenter pitch a shutout.”

He added, “The night of Dad’s funeral, after the shiva and ma’ariv service, a group of 10 family members, St. Louis friends, friends of mine and Jason from college, friends from their lives in New York and Los Angeles, went out after the shiva crowd thinned and drove to Ted Drewes for concretes. If the Irish have a wake, they raise a pint of beer for a fallen brother, then we as Jews have our food. And that night, in fitting tribute to my dad, we raised our concretes, turned upside down and toasted a life well lived … Dad had a tremendous amount of civic pride in St. Louis, and the smiles on the faces of the two people who had never been to St. Louis before as they licked their spoons clean would have made him the happiest.”

Funeral services were held on Thursday, Dec. 3, at Congregation B’nai Amoona, where Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose officiated. Additional words of tribute were offered in eulogies by Randy and Jason Sklar and by Mr. Sklar’s niece, Debbie Sklar, who said, “For as long as I can remember, Uncle Dick has been the glue of the Sklar family. The middle child forever working to keep the sides close together.”

In their eulogy, the Sklar twin sons said, “How do you sum up a life? How do you quantify a smile? How do you put into perspective the kind of support that can feel so complete it almost makes you feel guilty? How can we possibly convey the love, the light, the larger-than-life person and spirit that was and always will be our father, Richard Sklar?”

In addition to Mr. Sklar’s wife, Annette; twins sons Randy (Amy) Sklar and Jason Sklar (Dr. Jessica Zucker) and three grandchildren, all of Los Angeles, survivors include two brothers, Kenneth (Wendy) Sklar of Encino, Calif., and Robert (Marsha) Sklar of Irvine, Calif.

Burial was at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery-White Road.

Memorial contributions are preferred to Congregation B’nai Amoona, the American Cancer Society or the American Diabetes Association.