Sunny Glassberg dies at 94; philanthropist helped make St. Louis ‘greener’

Sunny Glassberg

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

Sunny Glassberg, and her late husband Myron Glassberg will forever be known for making the St. Louis region much “greener” through their many philanthropic donations to local parks and recreational facilities. Mrs. Glassberg died Sunday, May 19 at the Gatesworth Retirement Center in University City at the age of 94. She had previously lived in Ladue and Clayton.

Mrs. Glassberg and her husband Myron, who died in 1991, worked to acquire and improve the parks and recreational assets serving all St. Louisans. After Mr. Glassberg’s death, Mrs. Glassberg continued those efforts throughout her life.

Sonya “Sunny” Weinberg was born in 1919 in Louisville, Ky., the second of three children. She moved to St. Louis at age 20 and eventually became a buyer at the old Stix, Baer & Fuller department store.

The very setting in which she would meet the love of her life symbolized their commitment to green spaces and the recreational outdoors. She was introduced to Myron Glassberg at a horseback riding party at a cabin in what is now the Rockwoods Reservation, a state facility. They married in 1940 and worked closely together on projects to improve the community through advocacy and philanthropy until Mr. Glassberg’s death.


Myron Glassberg, who graduated in 1927 from Washington University with an engineering degree, had family ties to parks and recreation. His uncle, A. P. Greensfelder, was a civic leader, chairman of the board of the Fruin-Colnon Construction Company, and chairman of the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, of which Myron Glassberg would later become a member.

After Mr. Glassberg’s death, Mrs. Glassberg donated the funds to construct a public pavilion at the Greensfelder Memorial County Park in his memory. Previously, she had been the major benefactor of the $1.1 million renovation of the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park. She described that project as an 80th birthday present to herself when the pavilion was reopened in 1998.

It was almost inevitable that the generous spirit of Mrs. Glassberg would find common cause with the late and acclaimed visionary sculptor Bob Cassilly. The artist and founder of the City Museum designed three large concrete turtles that could easily be climbed by small children. He named the three concrete turtles Dick, Tom and Sally in honor of Mrs. Glassberg’s children, and created four smaller cement turtles for each of Mrs. Glassberg’s grandhchildren. Mrs. Glassberg enlisted the help of the St. Louis Parks Department and Forest Park Forever in selecting a permanent home for the sculpted turtles, south of Oakland Avenue and visible to passing motorists on Highway 40 (Interstate 64). 

Among other projects undertaken by Mrs. Glassberg were the reforestation of Tower Grove Park, and gifts to the Scholarship Foundation. She recently helped the state and federal governments purchase 438 acres along the Meramec River, which was dedicated as the Myron and Sonya Glassberg Family Conservation Area—united the two young sweethearts who met at a state conservation facility with the cause they held most dear.

Another major gift donated by Mrs. Glassberg was a $2 million commitment in 2007 for an endowed professorship at Washington University to encourage research into renewable energy and sustainability. She also made gifts to provide financial assistance to needy students.

Mark S. Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University, described Mrs. Glassberg to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as “the matriarch of a great family, all of whom cared about the environment. She will be deeply missed as a force for great good in our community.”

Mrs. Glassberg received many honors and accolades, including the Greensfelder Medal from the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Older Women’s League’s Women of Worth Lifetime Achievement Award, the St. Louis Zoo Award and the Hiram W. Leffingwell Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Glassbergs were members of Temple Israel, where she served for a time on the temple’s board of directors. Mrs. Glassberg was an active member of the National Council of Jewish Women-St. Louis Section, the Jewish Hospital Women’s Auxiliary, and she was active with the boards of the State Hospital and the old Delcrest Apartments (now the Crown Center). 

Survivors include two sons, Dr. Richard Glassberg of Fullerton, Calif. and Tom Glassberg of Jackson Hole, Wyo.; a daughter, Sally Glassberg Sands of Bozeman, Mont, and three grandchildren. A fourth grandchild died in 2001.

Mrs. Glassberg’s remains were cremated. A memorial service in her honor will be held 11 a.m., Tuesday, June 11 at the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park.