WWI veteran dies at age 106


Walter Heiman, a former St. Louis business owner and World War I veteran of the German Army, died Sunday, March 18, 2007, at the Gatesworth in University City, where he had resided the past 12 years. He was 106 years old and had previously lived in Olivette.

Mr. Heiman was a native of Essen, Germany. He enlisted in the German Army as a 17-year-old private, soon after finishing high school in March 1918. The German Army sent him for training to an air base in Hanover, but World War I ended before he left training.

After the First World War, Mr. Heiman returned to Essen, where he found work as an apprentice in grain distribution and earned a position on the board of trade. In 1926, he began his own business in Essen.

Following the Nazi takeover of Germany, the Hitler regime seized assets of German Jews, including Mr. Heiman. He left Germany and immigrated to the United States with his pregnant wife in 1938. The rest of Mr. Heiman’s immediate family were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

The Heimans stayed with relatives in Chicago, where Mr. Heiman learned English through night school and radio programs. In 1941, Mr. Heiman moved to St. Louis, where he opened a branch of Western Extralite of St. Louis, selling light bulbs from Belgium, door-to-door. Among the customers he gained was Famous-Barr, and his business grew to include electrical supplies and a lighting showroom. The company was located in the West Port area for 34 years.

Mr. Heiman retired in 1989, but remained board chairman of the company. In 1999, the company was sold to the family of his original 1941 partner.

In his earlier days, Mr. Heiman was active in sports, including swimming, tennis, soccer and snowskiing. He continued to swim until the age of 103.

Mr. Heiman was a supporter of the Israel Children’s Centers, which builds learning centers and tennis courts for immigrant and underprivileged children in Israel. A highlight in Mr. Heiman’s life was dining with Leah Rabin, wife of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, at one of the tennis centers in Israel.

Mr. Heiman attained U.S. citizenship in 1945. Mr. Heiman’s wife of 59 years, Trude Weyl Heiman, died in 1994, after which he moved to the Gatesworth.

Funeral services were held at Temple Emanuel, 12166 Conway Road. Burial was at the New Mount Sinai Cemetery.

Among the survivors are a daughter, Shirley A. Heiman of St. Louis; a son, John C. Heiman of St. Louis, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Israel Children’s Centers, 2151 West Hillsboro Boulevard, Suite 306, Deerfield Beach, Fla. 33442; Temple Emanuel, 12166 Conway Road, St. Louis, Mo. 63141; or the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Box 19190, St. Louis, MO 63119-7910.