Retiring cemetery director looks back on career helping people in mourning


Photo by Bill Motchan

By Bill Motchan, Special to the Jewish Light

Barry Needle will retire at the end of this year as executive administrator at Chevra Kadisha Cemetery and the United Cemetery Association, which includes B’nai Amoona Cemetery and United Hebrew Cemetery.

Needle, 79, started working for Chevra Kadisha in 1976. In 1999, Chevra Kadisha joined with B’nai Amoona and United Hebrew cemeteries — all of which are located less than a mile apart on North and South Road in University City — to form the United Cemetery Association. Needle has served as the organization’s director from the start. He has assisted many Jewish St. Louisans manage the loss of loved ones over the past 46 years. Needle, who attends Young Israel of St. Louis, sat down the Jewish Light to discuss his legacy and post-career plans.

Do you have any immediate retirement plans?

I’m going to enjoy my family. Our children are spread out in Israel, Baltimore and Chicago, and our daughter in Israel is coming to visit. I have a brother in Los Angeles and grandchildren all over. Thank G-d for Zoom! My niece organized a virtual meeting, so we’ve all been able to connect.

Any hobbies you may devote more time to?

I’ve got ideas for volunteering and joining a gym. Since I won’t be walking cemeteries as much as I do now, I need to stay physically active. I also enjoy just walking around the neighborhood.

Your job seems to require good organization skills. Does that describe your personality?

It needs work (laughs). Even though I’m retiring, there’s still lots to do. You’re getting calls from all over the place at once, and you’ve got to sort it out.

You’ve been described as caring and empathetic by your colleagues, which seems like it’s also necessary in your work.

You just need to be able to help people and know you’re helping them. Everyone handles things differently, and if I could help them through the situation, that was rewarding.

Are there any career highlights that you’re especially proud of?

It’s been gratifying to be able to help people when they’re facing serious problems. If in any way I could make their situation a little easier, that in itself is something I’m proud of.