Story behind the name – Irv Zeid Park


Bill Motchan, Special to the Jewish Light

Irv Zeid Park at 9100 Old Bonhomme Drive is the easternmost of Olivette’s five parks. The five-acre park has undergone a major transformation in the past year. The makeover includes a new dog park, an upgraded nature-based playground, revamped sidewalks and a natural rock dry stream.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the name of the park. Periodically, a lone bicyclist pauses to read the plaque honoring the park’s namesake. The bike rider is Stewart Zeid, Irv Zeid’s son.

Image taken by Bill Motchan.

“I’m an avid bicyclist, and at least once a season, I ride from my house down to the Arch,” said Zeid, 68, who is a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth. “On my way home, I always stop at the park. I like to read the plaque and spend a couple of minutes respecting my dad’s memory.”

The plaque near the park entrance calls Irv Zeid “Olivette’s “consummate citizen’” who had an impact on every part of the city, “making Olivette a better place to live and work.”

Who was Irv Zeid?

Irv Zeid

Irvin Joseph Zeid was born in 1928. He attended University City High School and Washington University, where he was a member of AEPi fraternity. He was known to his friends as having a good sense of humor. Zeid met Marian Balk in 1946 at an AZA/BBG function at the old JCCA on Union at Delmar. They were married in March 1950 and had two sons, Stewart and Neal. The family settled in Olivette, where Marian Zeid still lives. Irv was diligent as an elected official and a caring parent. He passed along those values to his children.

Stewart and Marian Zeid


“He was very devoted to family and friends, and he was a very caring guy,” said Stewart Zeid. “Everybody liked my dad.”

Zeid worked for the family business, known as Zeid Brothers Furniture and Clothing. The business split apart in the early 1960s, said Stewart Zeid.

“My dad and grandfather formed R.J. Zeid & Son Furniture and Clothing, which worked out of United Furniture & Clothing. It was a store designed for merchants like them to bring customers without having to own a storefront and stock merchandise.

“My dad worked as what they called back then a ‘collector.’ This was before the days of mass credit. So they would sell furniture and appliances and clothing to customers. Then they would have to go out and handle collections.”

By the 1970s when retail sales and credit were changing, Irv Zeid left that business and worked in a series of jobs, selling insurance and annuities and auto alarms. In semi-retirement, Zeid developed agricultural surveys.

Outside of work, Zeid was very civic-minded. As a longtime Olivette resident, he served on almost every commission the city had. He was a city councilman for a number of years and a one-term mayor.

“He was one of the original organizers of Olivette Summer Fest, which was the annual summer carnival and music festival that was a vehicle to raise funds for the police and fire pension funds,” said Stewart Zeid. “He was the lead organizer for 20 or more years.”

Irv Zeid Park was originally known as Centerton Park. After Zeid’s death in 2001, Norman Selner, one of his best friends from the Olivette city council, delivered an eloquent speech proposing a name change.

“I believe it was extemporaneous,” said Stewart Zeid. “His concept was ‘Let’s name a park after Irv, but instead of calling it a memorial park, we’ll call it a citizens park and make it a place where we can not only honor Irv’s memory for the contributions that he made to the city.’”

Selner wanted to do the same and recognize others who exemplified the spirit of citizenship that Irv Zeid demonstrated. Selner explained that “Irv was very instrumental in creating Summer Fest. He never missed one. He was a volunteer every year. He was ubiquitous. That’s why we honored him.”

There was one more piece of business Selner took on involving the park. He wrote the text on the plaque that Stewart Zeid visits on his bike ride.

“Irv was on the council for a couple of terms with me, and he always came to council meetings regularly,” Selner said. “Irv was a good guy. We had a request for citizens who spoke at council meetings to start by giving their name and address. The most memorable thing about Irv was every time we called on him when he was in the audience, Irv would stand up and say, ‘I’m Irv Zeid, I live on Chickasaw.’ We all laughed because everybody knew him anyway. But he was following the rule.”

Stewart Zeid said his father would likely be pleased to know the park was named for him, and his reaction would be “a combination of pride and humility.”

Andrew Jerram (holding baby Xander), Brittany Jerram, Aubree Jerram (in front of Brittany), Jett (dog), Stewart Zeid, Marian Zeid, Ashley Zeid and Onyx (dog).