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LeRoy Struckmeyer and Betty Sagner

1921 - LeRoy Elmer Struckmeyer

LeRoyElmer Struckmeyer was born at the Lutheran Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri at 11:20 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 25, 1921 to Charles Struckmeyer and Sophia Kelsch. His parents had invited friends over to share Thanksgiving dinner. Just before the meal was served, Sophia went into labor and Charles drove her to Lutheran Hospital. The guests remained behind and finished preparing and eating the turkey dinner.

Lee’s Dad, Charles, had been born Carl William Struckmeyer to Louis Struckmeyer and Henriette Detering in Hoyleton, Illinois on April 16, 1886. His family moved to St. Louis around the turn of the century. Charles’ father, Louis, was a wagon-maker and carpenter turned contractor. He built several homes in the Tower Grove Park area in the years just before the 1904 World’s Fair.

Originally Charles wanted to be a building contractor like his father. He approached his brother Fred about a partnership, but Fred decided that he could find a more secure future with the Post Office. He convinced Charles to do the same. In 1905, at the age of 19, Charles passed the Civil Service examination and joined the U.S. Postal Service as a clerk. He eventually became the first postmaster of the Gravois Station.

Lee’s mother, Sophie, was born Sophia Louise Wanda Kelsch to the Rev. Oscar Kelsch and Anna Wilcke in Marienburg, West Prussia on November 1, 1889. Her family immigrated to the United States in 1890 and moved around to various German-speaking parishes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas, and finally to St. Louis where they retired. Sophie worked as a stenographer and secretary.

Charles married Sophie at her parent’s home at 5450 Elenore Avenue on April 16, 1912. Charles then moved out of his mother’s house at 4229 Hartford and moved in with his in-laws. In 1915, Charles and Sophie bought a house at 3821 Shenandoah Avenue.

Around 1913, Charles entered the Saint Louis University dental school while working full time at the Post Office. He had no college education prior to dental school. It took him about three years to graduate. At his graduation in 1917 he was president of his senior class. After graduation he became known to family and friends as “Doc.”

Charles opened a dental practice above a drugstore at Gravois and Cherokee. About three years later he moved his office to 2604 Cherokee Street at Jefferson where he remained in practice for about 45 years, retiring at age 77.

In 1926, as a member of the St. Louis Dental Society, Doc initiated the movement that later resulted in the establishment of the St. Louis Municipal Dental Clinics which served indigent people.

childhood

Sophia and Charles with their children Robert, Wanda and LeRoyLee was the youngest of three children. His brother, Robert Louis, was nine and his sister, Wanda Irene, was two when Lee was born. At the time, the family lived in a single flat at 3520 Iowa Avenue south of Potomac.

Robert, LeRoy and Wanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around 1924 they moved to a five-room brick bungalow at 3334 Nebraska Avenue, between Cherokee and Utah.

Lee and Wanda at 3334 Nebraska Avenue Wanda and Lee LeRoy and his puppy

Lee’s mother Sophie was a very good cook. As a young child, and the baby in the family, Lee would spend a lot of time with her in the kitchen. Through much of his life, he enjoyed cooking.

Lee attended Froebel Grade School at 3709 Nebraska Avenue through the eighth grade.

LeRoy fishing LeRoy hunting LeRoy with squirrel

Lee with model airplaneAs a child he enjoyed building model airplanes. In 1932, when Lee was eleven years old, he read about zinc-cadmium electroplating in a Popular Science magazine. That summer he started a business electroplating dental tools. Unfortunately, they all oxidized black. By the fall he was out of business. At various times he also tried selling newspapers and magazines.

In the fall of 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, Lee’s father, Doc, contracted tuberculosis. He was unable to work for three years. He spent time in the Robert Koch Tuberculosis Hospital (sometimes known as the Quarantine Hospital) located south of Jefferson Barracks in Oakville. Then he moved to a sanitarium in Texas.

Sophie, Lee and BobSupport for the family fell on Sophie and Lee’s older brother Bob. Bob started working for the Brown Shoe Company moving leather hides in a warehouse. He soon convinced the company to take him on as a management trainee. The company eventually sent him out of state to a revitalize a failing factory. Other similar assignments followed.

 

Sophie in office

In 1935 Lee began high school at the Garfield Ninth Grade Center, a ninth grade class that was set up in a grade school because of overcrowding in the high schools. During the Depression, young people started attending high school in record numbers because jobs were scarce. So makeshift facilities had to be found.

In 1936 Lee moved to Cleveland High School for the tenth grade. His home was actually in the Roosevelt High School district, where his brother Bob went to school. But Lee’s older sister Wanda wanted to attend Cleveland because she believed it was a better school, so they both went there. In August 1938, Lee’s family moved to 5616 South Kingshighway between Goethe and Milentz.

During high school Lee worked as a carhop at Fassel’s A&W Root Beer stand at 6705 Chippewa. The property was later taken over by the Parkmore drive-in chain. Just across the street, Ted Drews opened his second St. Louis frozen custard stand.

Lee and his best friend John (Zim) Zimmermann tried different ways to make money without working real jobs. In one scheme they sold tailor-made suits to friends in high school. They found mill-end fabrics at a bargain, and worked out a deal with a wholesale tailoring company to make suits, which they then marked up. A two-piece suit sold for $22. Lee and Zim brought their customers into the tailor’s for a fitting and then showed them samples of available fabrics. They made a nice profit on each one.

They also held weekend dances to make money. They would rent a hall on Arsenal Street, just east of Grand Avenue, and would buy six or eight cases of beer and several bottles of alcohol. For two dollars admission, they provided an open bar and several hours of dancing to phonograph records.

college and work

Lee in Culver-Stockton college yearbook for 1940After graduating from Cleveland High School in June 1939, Lee enrolled at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri, not far from Quincy, Illinois. Lee's distinctive haircut was noted on campus, as seen in this yearbook photo.

Bob and LeeHe intended to major in pre-dental studies and then attend Washington University’s dental school. Lee really wanted to attend the University of Missouri and major in journalism, but his father insisted that unless he wanted to pay his own way through college, Lee would study dentistry.

During his first semester of his sophomore year Lee became ill with influenza and failed his classes in English composition, speech, trigonometry, physics, and qualitative analysis. His college career ended in December of 1940.

Lee

In February 1941, Lee found a job as a lab assistant in the metallurgical lab at the Scullin Steel Company at 6700 Manchester Avenue near McCausland Avenue (now the site of the St. Louis Marketplace shopping center).

Just before Easter in 1941, Lee’s best friend John Zimmermann asked him if he wanted to go on a blind date on Easter Sunday. Zim’s girlfriend, Joella Danes, was working in an advertising design studio with a young woman named Betty Lee Sagner.

 

1921 - Betty Lea Sagner

Betty Lea Sagner was born at 10:30 p.m. on June 22, 1921 to Ernest Sagner and Alice Schuller at 5836 Garfield in St. Louis, Missouri. She was named after her mother’s two aunts, Bettie (Lisbeth) and Lena Bauer.

As she grew, the spelling of Betty’s middle name changed from Lea to Lee. She came from a family of name changers. Her father, Ernest Frederick, was named Frederick Ernest Sagner at birth. Her mother, Alice Elizabeth, was baptized Elizabeth Alice Schuller.

Ernie and Alice were married in January of 1920 when both were eighteen years old. Ernie was a clerk with the Railway Mail Service. After the wedding, Alice left home to join him in Kansas City where they lived in a single room apartment. It was a pretty dismal experience for her. When Alice became pregnant, she returned to St. Louis to be with her mother. Soon, Ernie was able to get a job with the Mail Service in St. Louis.

Ernie became very interested in radios. After he sorted the mail on the train, he would read all the magazines that came through the mail about radios and electronics. He soon learned to repair radios and set up a shop at home. He then got a part time job with a radio distributor in sales and service. He found he liked the servicing more than the selling.

childhood

The family lived in North St. Louis near Kingshighway and Page. From their first home at 5836 Garfield Avenue, the family moved to 4964 North Market Street, then to a two-family dwelling on Wells Avenue. Betty’s younger sister, Alice Anita, arrived in 1926. By the time of the 1930 Census the family was living in a two-family flat at 4723 Leduc Street, rented for $45 a month. Later they moved to a single-family home on Wabada Avenue.

On Leduc Street, Clinny Dill Pavlic, a pianist who accompanied silent movies, lived downstairs from the Sagners. Her daughter Dorothy took art, music, and dancing lessons. Clinny invited Betty to join Dorothy for private acrobatic dancing classes held in her home.

When Betty was about six years old, Alice enrolled her at nearby Ford’s Dancing School. She studied ballet and tap. Alice helped pay for the classes by winning ticket sales competitions every year to the annual recital. As a reward, Betty received free group lessons.

In addition to dancing, Betty developed a love for drawing and painting. She had a chalkboard where she drew for hours. She would draw clothes for paper dolls and began to design clothes for her other dolls. This later developed into an interest in dress design.

Ernie Sagner continued to work for the Railway Mail Service, but also set up a radio shop on a balcony inside Al Reed’s auto parts store on Easton Avenue about five blocks below Kingshighway. Reed’s shop was commonly called the “Orange Front” because the facade was painted that color.

Ernie sold radios for both cash and credit and he provided a repair service for customers. Money started rolling in and he thought he would soon be wealthy. When the stock market crashed in 1929, people who had bought radios on credit started returning them. Inventories piled up and the cash flow stopped. Ernie had a nervous breakdown.

The Railway Mail Service continued to provide employment. Ernie began repairing radios out of his home on Wabada. But at times money was so scarce that Alice told Betty that there would be no dinner unless Ernie came home with money from a radio installation or repair.

Betty attended Samuel Cupples grade school from Kindergarten through the eighth grade. On her way home from school she would pass by her grandfather’s auto body shop. Alphonse Schuller had originally been a blacksmith. That eventually developed into auto bodywork. But Alphie was an artist at heart. After the bodywork was painted, her Grandpa Schuller donned a beret and painted the pinstripes on the vehicle with an artist’s palette and a fine bristle brush.

When Betty stopped by the shop, her grandfather would hand her a beer bucket, and she would walk to Mrs. Seroni’s bar to get draft beer for the workers. When she returned, Alphie would take Betty into the office and show her books of automotive paint color chips. They would talk about the qualities of color, and Alphie would draw pictures with Betty. As they sat across a table, Grandpa Schuller would draw a face. Betty would copy what she saw, creating a face that was upside-down.

In 1933, when Betty was twelve, Ernie opened “The Radio Hospital” at 5050 Easton Avenue (now Dr. Martin Luther King Drive) with an investment of $300 and goods stocked on consignment. The family moved to a flat over the shop where Betty lived until she was married ten years later.

Betty attended Ben Blewitt High School. Throughout her high school years, she continued to pursue an interest in both art and dance. At school she took a fine arts curriculum.

By now she was taking dancing lessons nearly every day of the week. She had group and private lessons in tap and ballet. As her talent for dance developed, Betty’s instructor at Ford’s Dancing School encouraged her by letting her attend acrobatic dancing and toe dancing classes on Saturdays at no charge. Because she was light and limber, she was soon invited to also attend adagio classes on Sundays. There, two grown men would throw her through the air to a waiting catcher. In another variation Betty would climb onto a piano and jump into their arms. When that didn’t seem high enough, they took her into the back yard and placed a ladder against the side of the garage. Betty climbed up and sailed off the roof. She claims she never saw much of Sunday mornings because she had her eyes closed so much.

Betty Lee Sagner high school portraitBetty would get up at six o’clock in the morning and practice dancing in the basement until she had to get ready for school. By the end of her sophomore year, she wanted to drop out of school and concentrate solely on dance. Her mother would not allow it and made her finish school. Neither Alice nor Ernie had attended high school. They were determined that Betty would get her degree. Betty completed a fine arts and college prep curriculum, and graduated in June of 1939.

One of the thrills of Betty’s life was being invited by her uncle, Kenneth Schuller, who had founded the St. Louis Light Opera Guild, to perform in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” at Keil Auditorium. Her private dressing room had a star on the door.

Betty graduated from Ben Blewitt high school in June 1939.

technical school and work

But art also continued to be a strong interest. Betty wanted to study dress design at Washington University, but the tuition was too expensive. So she enrolled in the dress design curriculum at Hadley Technical School. Her teachers at Hadley recommended she also study fashion illustration because of the quality of her drawings. That eventually led to commercial art classes.

While at Hadley, Betty was recruited for a job at the Park Plaza Hotel. She was hired to work as a ghost artist for a partner at D’Arcy Advertising, named Turner, who lived in a suite at the Park Plaza Hotel. In another suite he maintained a private studio. He employed a secretary and two designers, Betty and Joella Danes, who created Coca Cola and Budweiser advertising layouts for him. They created pastel sketches for magazine illustrations and billboard designs. Mr. Turner would then present the work as his own, which he claimed he produced over the weekend. He paid very little for the layouts, claiming that it was valuable experience. Betty’s father encouraged her to quit since she wasn’t making a fair wage. When she handed in her resignation she got a raise. Every time she threatened to quit, she got another raise.

While she worked for Mr. Turner, her friend Joella asked her if she wanted to go on a blind date on Easter Sunday, 1941. Joella was dating a boy named John Zimmerman who had a best friend named Lee Struckmeyer.

Easter 1941 - LeRoy and Betty

Betty Sagner and Lee Struckmeyer in 1939John Zimmermann and Joella Danes had decided that their friends Lee and Betty should meet. The first date was arranged for the afternoon of Easter Sunday, April 13, 1941. Lee and Betty met that day at the house on Loughborough Avenue near Gravois Avenue in South St. Louis where they later spent most of their married life together.

The two-family flat at 4928 Loughborough had originally been home to Betty’s three grandaunts and a granduncle, sisters and brother of her grandmother, Emma Schuller. Aunt Lena (Bauer), Aunt Bettie (Bauer), and Uncle Frank (Bauer) lived together in the lower flat (4928). Betty’s Aunt Lou (Louise Fromann) lived in the upper flat (4928A) with her husband Oscar. Bettie Bauer died in 1939. In February 1941, Aunt Lou’s husband Oscar Fromann died. By that Easter Sunday, Lena, Lou and Frank were living downstairs and the upper flat was rented. Lee lived just 11 blocks away at his parents’ home at 5616 South Kingshighway.

On holidays, Betty’s family, along with her grandparents Alphonse and Emma Schuller, would travel from North St. Louis to celebrate with the Bauers at the house on Loughborough.

When Lee, Zim and Joella walked in the door, Betty was immediately attracted to the tall, thin LeRoy.

Three couples went out together that Sunday. Bud Binder brought a date whose father owned the Hillcrest Country Club on Tesson Ferry Road where they went for the afternoon. The country club was closed for the holiday, so the three couples were there by themselves with beer, Cokes, a jukebox and a dance floor. Lee remembered drinking beer that day. The next day, he didn’t quite remember what Betty looked like.

dating and work

Lee and Betty out on the townBetty and Lee hit it off right away and began dating regularly. They were out on a date on Sunday December 7, 1941, when Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor.

Meanwhile Betty was attending Hadley Technical School and was taking night classes at Washington University in fashion illustration. Encouraged by her teacher, she entered a competition and won a full scholarship to the university.

Betty completed classes at Hadley Tech in the summer of 1942. She entered Washington University in the fall, taking classes in fashion illustration, painting and sculpture. She continued to work for Mr. Turner on weekends.

In December 1941, Lee found another job in the acid lab at a United States government munitions facility at Weldon Springs, Missouri across the Missouri River. Atlas Powder, which ran the ordnance plant, manufactured TNT there. Lee moved to the TNT sample-testing lab where he became a supervisor.

Betty Sagner, Lee Struckmeyer, Alice Sagner, and Harry Spehr, June 1942The photo at the left was taken at the Chase Hotel in St. Louis on June 19, 1942. It shows Betty Lee Sagner, Lee Struckmeyer, Alice Anita Sagner, and Harry (Buzzy) Spehr. Lee and Betty wedded in December 1943 and Alice and Harry married in June 1946.

1942-1945 - military service

Lee in uniformLee was drafted into the Army on October 12, 1942. He entered active service on October 26th. Based on a letter from the Ordnance Officer at the munitions facility at Weldon Springs, he was assigned to the Army Ordnance Corps. He entered the Army at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri, and three weeks later was transferred to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. There he took basic training, attended Ordnance School, and completed Cadre School for non-commissioned officers. After promotion to corporal, he taught in the Ordnance School as a drill instructor. He was then accepted into the Army Supply Training Program, which provided candidates with college training. They sent him to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia to take a two-year course in electrical engineering.

On Betty’s 22nd birthday, June 22, 1943, Lee’s parents (Charles and Sophia) went to Betty’s parents’ house (Ernest and Alice) for a birthday party. Lee called Betty by phone from Blacksburg, Virginia. Betty took the call at the pay phone downstairs in the Radio Hospital shop. Lee proposed marriage and Betty accepted. Lee had purchased a ring on a previous visit home and entrusted it to his parents. Charles Struckmeyer put the engagement ring on Betty’s finger. "Happy birthday from LeRoy," he said.

Lee completed one three-month semester at Virginia Polytechnic and then was shipped back with most of his classmates to Aberdeen Proving Ground as the war escalated overseas. He was then transferred to the Savanna Army Depot in Savanna, Illinois as an instructor.

Lee and Betty at their marriage ceremonyOn Sunday December 5, 1943, Lee took the train from Savanna to St. Louis. He arrived at Union Station at about 10:00 in the morning. Lee and Betty quickly got their blood tests from an accommodating doctor and then went to city hall. Lee’s father had arranged for a city clerk to open the marriage license office on Sunday. They were married at 1:30 by the Rev. Erich Leibner, a family friend, in front of the fireplace in the living room of Lee’s parent’s house at 5616 South Kingshighway. Betty made her wedding dress. Her sister, Alice Anita, was the maid of honor, and Lee’s brother, Bob, was the best man. After the ceremony they had a meal, and by late afternoon Lee was heading back on the train to Savanna.

About a week later, Betty joined Lee at Savanna Army Depot where they lived in a rooming house for about a week. Betty had to return home again because Lee was sent to Camp McCoy near Sparta, Wisconsin, for an antiaircraft firing test. Soon, Betty was able to join Lee at Camp Shenango in Greenville, Pennsylvania, northeast of Youngstown, Ohio. Again, they lived in a rooming house. As a newlywed, Lee was given very light duty—just cleaning and restocking the coal stoves in the officer’s quarters every morning. Their days consisted of eating at the two restaurants in town (steak for lunch and spaghetti for dinner) and spending time at the U.S.O.

After three or four weeks, Lee was reassigned to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey, which served as a staging area for embarkation to Europe. In February 1944 he was shipped overseas on the "Isle de France" to Manchester, England. The trip lasted seven days. He was then sent to the English port of Plymouth where the Ordnance divisions began loading ammunition aboard invasion barges. “D-Day” was about three months away. He was part of the 689th Ordinance Ammunition Company.

Lee landed on the Normandy coast on June 17, 1944 (D+11), eleven days after the invasion began. His battalion set up ammunition depots to supply the front lines—initially for the First Army, then for the Third Army. He remained overseas for twenty-two months. Four months were spent in England (March to June 1944), eight months in northern France (June 1944 to February 1945), six months in Germany (February to August 1945), and another four month in France (August to November 1945). The war in Europe officially ended on May 8, 1945 while Lee was in Germany. While in France, after V-E Day, Lee was able to take classes at the Sorbonne University located in the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank in Paris.

When Lee left for Europe in early 1944, Betty returned to St. Louis and discovered that her mother had separated from her father. Her mother and sister, Alice Anita, had moved out of the flat on Easton Avenue and into a four-family flat at 2711 North Union. Next door lived the Spehr family—King, Marie, Dorothy, and Harry (Buzzy). Alice Anita had been dating Buzzy while she lived on Easton, and Buzzy told her about an available apartment next door. Although they were separated, Ernie expected to be fed by Alice and came over for dinner every night.

Betty enrolled at Washington University for the spring and fall semesters. She was offered a job as a dress designer, but turned it down to continue studying painting which now became her main interest.

In early 1945, Lee became the manager of a newsletter for the 689th Ordinance Ammunition Company called "The 689th Detonator." By April 13th, the 689th had moved into Germany and published its first newsletter there. In June 1945, Lee was named managing editor of a new batallion newspaper, "The 315th Bugle Call," published in Bamberg, Germany.

post-war

Lee returned to the States at the end of World War II and was discharged from the Army on December 22, 1945. He moved into the one-bedroom apartment that Betty shared with her mother and sister at 2711 North Union. Lee and Betty slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room.

On Saturday afternoons Betty and Lee recalled walking across the street with neighbors to Duffy’s Tavern (run by Cliff Haley) where they drank beer, played slot machines and sang Irish songs to live music.

Lee enrolled in classes at Washington University for about six months to complete his requirements for dental school, but was not able to gain admittance to the Washington University School of Dentistry.

On June 28, 1946, Betty’s sister Alice Anita married Harry “Buzzy” Spehr.

In August 1946, Lee found a job as a control chemist with the Glidden Company, the maker of Glidden paints, for $167 a month. But then Joe King, a plasterer and an uncle of Buzzy Spehr, offered Lee a job as a hod carrier for $19 a day. He immediately took it. Joe then recommended Lee to other plasterers. The plastering craft included three different trades: lathers, hod carriers, and plasterers. A hod carrier mixed plaster or mortar and carried it to the plasterer on his shoulder in a hod (a V-shaped tray closed on one end and mounted on a pole). Lee carried the hod for two years until December 1948.

On February 11, 1947, their first child, Kurt Lee, was born at St. Anthony’s Hospital. Lee missed work that day and was fired. The next day he walked into the union hall and was given another job. They brought Kurt home to the flat at 2711 North Union. In April, they moved to a two-family flat at 3805 Humphrey Street in South St. Louis. Lee’s parents, Doc and Sophie, owned the property.

In 1945, Charles Struckmeyer purchased a ten-acre parcel for $3,500 on Becker Road in St. Louis County not far from the Merrimac River. He was then able to buy an old Civilian Conservation Corps barracks (20 x 80 feet) at Babler State Park for $650. He had the barracks demolished and the lumber hauled to his property. In November 1945, Charles had a five-room house built with the used lumber for $3,745. In addition, 20x20 garage and tool house was built and a chicken coop was constructed based on a Purina Mills plan. Construction took eight months. This was a rural farming area where Doc and Sophie later raised chickens, geese, and two ponies, Hammerhead and Queenie. The property also produced fruit and berries. They lived there for ten years.

When they moved from the city to Becker Road, the Humphrey Street flats were rented to their children. Betty, Lee and Kurt lived in the first floor flat on Humphrey Street. Lee’s sister, Wanda, and her husband Bob Heuer, a car salesman and musician, lived in the upper flat with their son Barry. At the time Bob Heuer played violin and guitar regularly with orchestras and bands around town, including the KXOK radio staff band. Later he played with the Russ David orchestra.

Betty and Lee’s daughter, Karen Leah, was born on March 8, 1948 just 13 months after Kurt’s arrival.

Lee worked at many jobs during this period. From August 1946 to January 1947, he carried the hod for plasterer R. Benning. In January 1947, he worked for plasterer George Robertson, then in May 1948 for Niehaus Plastering, and in July 1948, for the Lee Brothers. From December 1948 to August 1949, he had a new job nearly every month. In December 1948, he found work for plasterer P. H. McAllister. In January 1949, Lee sold insurance for Sam Katz at Reserve Loan Life, a Dallas company, with offices in the Railway Exchange Building. In February, he had more plaster work with P. H. McAllister. In April, he sold insurance again, this time for Mutual of New York at 812 Olive Street. In May, Lee was carrying the hod again for P. Goeddel. And in June, for George Robertson.

In August 1949, Lee took a job at the Anheuser-Busch starch plant at 721 Pestalozzi Street. This job lasted nearly a year, until June 1950 when he took a job with his father-in-law, Ernie Sagner at the Radio Hospital. Around this time Betty worked three days a week for an insurance agent, stuffing envelopes. Betty’s aunt, Lena Bauer, would often baby-sit the children.

Easton Avenue

In August 1950, Betty and Lee moved their young family to 5050A Easton Avenue in the upper flat next door to Betty’s parents Alice and Ernie Sagner. Alice had returned to the house about three years earlier, although she and Ernie maintained separate bedrooms.

When Lee and Betty moved from the flat on Humphrey Street, Lee’s older brother, Bob, and his wife, Ruth, moved in with their children, Stephanie Ruth and Robert Louis, Jr. Bob Struckmeyer had decided to get out of the shoe business and instead purchased a gas station and car wash near the Southtown Famous-Barr department store at Kingshighway and Beck.

The building on Easton Avenue consisted of two upper flats over two connected storefronts. The flats were at 5048 and 5050 Easton. Ernie Sagner ran the Radio Hospital, a radio and TV repair shop, on the ground floor. The main shop on the east side consisted of a long counter in the front and repair benches in the rear. The attached ground floor shop to the west had garage doors on the front and rear and was used to repair car radios. Across the street was Sherman Park, which contained a public library branch.

Ernie and Lee in the Radio HospitalLee had decided that he needed to learn a skilled trade. His father-in-law offered him a job-in-training in radio and TV electronics at $210 a month for a six-day workweek. Lee had been making $110 for a five-day week carrying the hod. But he saw this as an investment in the future. It took Lee three years to get back to his previous salary level. Ernie promised Lee that someday he would be a partner in the business. The promise never materialized.

The neighborhood around Easton Avenue was changing racially. After World War II many African-Americans migrated from the South to Northern cities. Black families began moving up Easton Avenue from neighborhoods further downtown. (Today, Easton Avenue is known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.)

Lee’s mother, Sophie, was the daughter of a German Evangelical pastor who had emigrated to the United States and served at a number of congregations throughout the country. Concerned about the neighborhood and declining public school conditions, encouraged Betty and Lee to find a parochial school for Kurt and Karen.

In the fall of 1952, Kurt was enrolled in Kindergarten at the school of Mount Calvary English Evangelical Lutheran Church, a congregation of the Missouri Synod, located at 5234 Wells Avenue on the corner of Wells and N. Union Boulevard, a few blocks from their house. The K-8 school had four teachers with two grades per classroom and was attached to the church which had an address at 1440 N. Union Boulevard.

Mount Clavary Lutheran ChurchPrior to Kurt's enrollment, Betty and Lee joined the congregation, which offered free school tuition to members. On Sunday, October 5, 1952, just a few weeks after school started, the children were baptized at the church. Kurt was five years old and Karen was four. Betty and Lee took adult membership classes and were confirmed by Pastor Paul Stephan on March 1, 1953.

Stained Glass windows from Mount Clavary Lutheran ChurchThe congregation had been founded on December 15, 1897. They grew from a mission operating out of a storefront at 4713 Easton Avenue. After incorporating as a congregation, their first official home was a converted residence at 1607 N. Euclid, dedicated on September 11, 1898. Their first pastor was Rev. E. T. Coyner. They constructed a new building at 1440 N. Union Boulevard at Wells Avenue. Today, the building is home to New White Stone Missionary Baptist Church.

As young children, both Kurt and Karen had significant health problems. Kurt had asthma and Karen contracted tuberculosis of the lymph nodes.

Loughborough Avenue

4928 Loughborough around 1930Betty’s aunt Lena Bauer, also concerned about the decline of the neighborhood in North St. Louis, offered to rent them the second floor flat of the house she owned at 4928 Loughborough in South St. Louis. Her brother, Frank, had died in 1954. Lena and her sister Louise shared the first floor flat and rented the upstairs flat.

In 1925, Christine Bauer and three of her children—Frank, Lena and Betty—built the two-family flat on Loughborough. The 1930 census put the value of the home at $15,000.

Moellenhoff farm in 1868 mapIn an 1868 map of the area, the original property was the site of the Rudolph Möllenhoff (or Moellenhoff) farm. It ran east-west, facing Gravois Road, which was then a dirt and gravel road. Rudolph Moellenhoff is listed in an 1890 St. Louis City Directory with an address at 6901 Gravois Road and an occupation as a gardener. Many of his neighbors were similarly either farmers or gardeners.

Just south of Moellenhoff's property was the Rudolph Stuckmeyer farm at 7039 Gravois. Today, the descendents of that family operate the Stuckmeyer Farm and Nursery at 249 Schneider Drive in Fenton, Missouri.

Before 1910, when this area was mostly farmland, the community was known as Gardenville, acquiring its name from the many vegetable garden farms which were then on the southern fringe of the city. The area was a part of Carondolet Township which stretched west from the Carondolet town border at Morgan Ford Road.

Rudolph Möllenhof was born in Hanover, Germany in December 1823. He came to the United States in 1842 at the age of 19 and married Catherine Elise Stackemeyer [most likely Stuckemeyer or Stuckmeyer] on August 11, 1848 in St. Louis. The 1850 census shows Rudolph (26) and Catherine (23) living in Carondolet Township with Diedrich Moellenhoff (60), most likely Rudolph's father, and Mary Stuckmeyer (18), most likely Catherine's sister.

Rudolph Möllenhoff's wife, Catherine Elise Stuckmeyer (born about 1833) may have been a sister of his neighbor Rudolph Stuckmeyer. In 1854, Rudolph Stuckmeyer (born about 1833) married Catherine Regina Möllenhoff (born about 1833), who likewise may have been a sister of Rudolph Möllenhoff, who also came from Hannover, Germany.

And just south of the Stuckmeyer property, several farms had been converted in 1862 to a cemetery owned by the German Independent Protestant Evangelical Church of The Holy Ghost. It was initially called the Independent Evangelical Protestant Cemetery, but like an older cemetery that the congregation owned, it was named after their former pastor, Frederick Picker, who served the congregation from 1843 to 1855. To differentiate it from the older cemetery, the property on Gravois became known as the New Picker Cemetery. Today, it is known as Gatewood Gardens. When they died, both Rudolph Moellenhoff and Rudolph Stuckmeyer were buried in the New Picker Cemetery.

Moellenhoff home in 2007The brick 1867 farm house of the Moellenhoff  family still stands at 4966 Loughborough. The house is oriented differently than other homes on the block, facing east instead of north, although a northern entrance and porch were later added, probably after 1924.

Rudolph Moellenhoff's first wife Catherine died sometime around 1860. He remarried in 1861 to Elisabeth (Elisa or Elizza) Charlotte Windmüller.

In the 1900 census, Rudolph and Elisa Moellenhoff were living at 6901 Gravois with their son Herman, his wife and their three children. Also in the house were three farm laborers and two domestic servants. A little farther south on the property, at 6961 Gravois was the home of another son, William Moellenhoff, his wife and four children, and a resident farm laborer.

1916 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Moellenhoff tractRudolph Moellenhoff died at his home on May 26, 1904 at age 80. As housing developments began to creep in from the north, his wife sold the southern portion of his property to developers around 1905.

The first development of his property was the McDermott and Hayden Hildesheim Subdivision which created Nagel, Blow, and Quincy Streets in 1906. At the same time the north-south oriented Moellenhoff and Brunswick (now January) streets were also created. The Moellenhoff  family retained the narrow strip of property along what would eventually become an extension of Loughborough Avenue.

The street names in the new Hildesheim subdivision were seen as non-continuous extensions of streets in the old Carondelet neighborhood near the Mississippi river. Running south of Loughborough in Carondolet are Quincy, Blow, Nagel, Robert and Upton.

Around 1910, Loughborough Avenue ran west from Carondolet and ended at Gravois Road. The Moellenhoff farm lay on the other side. In a 1911 map, a westward extension of Loughborough is shown only in a dashed line as a proposed street. When it was finally  created, sometime before 1915, the street took a jog at Gravois moving further to the north so that the new street would bypass the Moellenhoff house. In 1915, the north side of Loughborough Avenue was becoming developed, but the south side of the street would wait for nearly another decade before being subdivided.

In 1924, upon the death of Elisabeth Moellenhoff, the rest of the Moellenhoff  property was developed as the Gravois Loughborough Place subdivision. The Bauer's home was built there in 1925.

In 1935, the Stuckmeyer family sold their farm to developers and bought property on Pardee Road by Grant’s Farm further south on Gravois. Robert Street and Sunshine Drive (originally Upton Street) are now situated on the former Stuckmeyer farm.

Today, the house at 4928 Loughborough is in the Princeton Heights neighborhood of St. Louis. Roughly triangular in shape, it is bounded by Hampton Boulevard on the west, Eichelberger on the north, Christy Boulevard on the northeast, and Gravois on the east and south. Princeton Heights got its name from the Princeton Creamery which was located on Kingshighway Boulevard just north of Gravois. The "heights" comes from the fact that the land in the area is elevated high above the River Des Peres which lies south of the neighborhood's boundaries.

Betty and Lee moved to the upper flat at 4928A Loughborough in March 1955. (They remained there until June 2011, a period of 56 years.) Betty’s Aunt Lena died a short time later in 1956. In June 1958, Louise Frommann sold the house to Lee and Betty for $16,000. Of that amount, $4,000 was to be paid to Louise in monthly installments of $50. The balance was in the form of a mortgage. Aunt Lou lived alone in the downstairs flat until her death in 1965.

Kurt, Lee and Karen with their dog MimiKaren and Kurt were soon enrolled in the First and Second Grades at Gardenville School at the corner of Kingshighway and Gravois. Kurt later attended Buder School (sixth through eighth grades) when the federal government and the local school systems created an accelerated educational program in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik.

At one point, when Kurt was in the Cub Scouts (Pack 192), Lee served as assistant cubmaster from September 1956 to June 1957.

Every December, Lee’s aunt Martha Struckmeyer hosted a holiday family reunion at the Bevo Mill at Gravois and Morganford in South St. Louis.

Lee in 1958In 1957, Lee left the Radio Hospital and took a job in the electronic instrument shop at Mallinckrodt Chemical Company in Weldon Springs, Missouri. In 1963 he moved to McDonnell Aircraft where he maintained numerically-controlled machinery, and in 1968 he became an instrument mechanic on the midnight shift at the Chrysler Gateway plant. On the side, he repaired radios and TVs out of his garage.

Betty taught art classes in the basement of their home for many years—mostly to children, but also to adults. Classes were held on weekday afternoons and on Saturdays.

Their son, Kurt, graduated from Cleveland High School in 1965 and the Washington University School of Fine Arts in 1969. Karen attended Southwest High School.

Lee and Betty with Kurt and Jean at their weddingKurt married Jean Eileen Ochonicky on August 24, 1968 at St. Lucas Lutheran Church on Morganford Road.

In December 1968, Lee and Betty celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at Kurt and Jean’s townhouse apartment at 219 University Court in Laclede Town near downtown St. Louis.

In July 1969, Kurt and Jean moved to Detroit, Michigan where he joined the General Motors Design Center as a clay modeler. Their first child, Amy Rebecca, was born on June 2, 1971 and their second, Sara Elizabeth, five years later on August 1, 1976.

Karen and Riic with Betty and LeeBetty and Lee’s daughter, Karen, married Lt. James Richard (Rick) Walters II on June 23, 1972 at Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church on Blow Street. They then embarked on a 30-year journey around the world. Rick, a West Point graduate, was stationed in Germany; Alexandria, Virginia; Eatontown, New Jersey; Newport News, Virginia; South Korea; and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. After military service, Karen and Rick lived in South Jacksonville, Illinois; Rockford, Illinois; Angola, Indiana; West Monroe, Louisiana; and finally Frankfort, Illinois.

Betty and LeeTheir children were born around the globe as well. Sasha Lyn was born on June 7, 1975 in Alexandria, Virginia; Scott Matthew was born in South Korea on July 23, 1978 and joined their family about a week later on August 1, 1978; Sean Kenneth was also born in South Korea on November 26, 1979; and Kimberly Nicole was born in South Jacksonville, Illinois on July 10, 1984.

Betty continued to study art after her children were grown. She became interested in ceramics, taking classes at Meramec Community College. She also returned to Washington University from 1969 to 1971 for classes in figure drawing, composition, figure painting, portrait painting, and portrait sculpture.

In 1971 Lee took a job at the Anheuser-Busch brewery where he stayed for the next 15 years until his retirement in 1986.

Betty and Lee’s parents died in a span of seven years: Lee’s mother, Sophie, in 1973; Betty’s father, Ernie, in 1978; Lee’s father, Charles, a year later; and Betty’s mother, Alice, the year after that.

Betty continued learning new forms of artistic expression. Needing to photograph her work for submission to shows, she began the study of photography with John Nagel at Meramec Community College. Lee joined her, being particularly interested in the technical aspects of photography. Later Betty went to Forest Park Community College to study product, portrait, and color photography, and studio lighting. She also took classes there in figure painting and ceramics. In the 1990s Betty and Lee returned to Meramec Community College to study digital imaging with Rene Michel-Trepaga and John Nagel.

Lee and Betty on front porch of 4928 LoughboroughLee and Betty celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at their home on Loughborough in December 1993.

Lee on photography tripIn the mid-1990s, they were able to take several trips offered by their digital imaging teachers: Mexico in 1994, Italy in 1995, and Spain in 1996.

Over the years Betty won many art awards in shows at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild, the St. Charles Artists’ Guild, the St. Peters Cultural Art Center, and the Garret Gallery. Lee also won several awards for his photography. In her eighties and nineties, Betty’s primary interests were focused in digital imaging and oil painting.

Amy and Jim's weddingOn September 5, 1999, their granddaughter Amy Struckmeyer married James Andrew Skalla.

Sara Struckmeyer married Christopher William Masson on May 25, 2002.

Lee and HenryBetty and Lee’s first great-grandchild, Henry Carter Skalla arrived on October 14, 2003 and their second, Eleanor Josephine Skalla was born on April 26, 2007.

Betty and Lee with their grandchildrenOn December 6, 2003, Lee and Betty celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at the historic Bevo Mill restaurant in South St. Louis, surrounded by family members and friends.

They are shown here with their grandchildren and their first great-grandchild, Henry.

In 2007, grandaughter Sasha Walters married Benjamin Farquarh Tweel. Their daughter, Sophia Grace Tweel, was born on May 1, 2008. Betty and Lee's fourth great-granchild, Wyatt Forrester Masson was born two months later on July 23, 2008. The fifth great-grandchild arrived when Kimberly Walters gave birth to her daughter Lilah Jade Walters. Their sixth great-grandchild, Phoebe Viola Masson arrived on May 9, 2013.

In April 2011, Betty and Lee purchased a condominium at 35100 Hillside Drive in Farmington Hills, Michigan. They moved there in June, ending 58 years of residency at 4928 Loughborough Avenue in St. Louis. That summer and fall, they each celebrated their 90th birthdays.

At 8:30 in the evening on September 25, 2013, LeRoy Struckmeyer died at Henry Ford - West Bloomfield hospital after hospitalization for an infection in the bloodstream. He was two months shy of his 92nd birthday. In December 2013, he and Betty would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. He left behind six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

 

 
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