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Ralph V. Streiff: Led Nooter Corporation

/ Photo provided by Streiff family

Ralph V. Streiff, who was onboard at homegrown Nooter Corp. as the former boiler works company moved into building custom apparatus that helped stamp out polio and put men on the moon, died Sunday. He was 86.

Fresh out of Washington University School of Engineering in 1951, Mr. Streiff joined Nooter as a sales engineer. Forty years later, he retired as president and chairman of the company, which had become one of the largest metal fabricators in the world during his tenure.

Mr. Streiff died the morning of May 4 of liver cancer at his home in Clarkson Valley,  his son Paul Streiff said. Mr. Streiff had been diagnosed about a year ago.

Funeral services will be Thursday (May 7, 2014) at Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in Chesterfield.

When Mr. Streiff joined the St. Louis-based company in 1951, it was winding down its war effort. As other manufacturers thrived on the postwar economic boom, they needed new types of specialized industrial equipment. Nooter was there to meet the demands.

Its major customers in the 1950s were oil and chemical companies that included Du Pont, Amoco and Monsanto. It developed the vessels used to manufacture Dr. Jonas Salk’s new polio vaccine, which nearly eradicated the deadly childhood illness. The company’s work with new materials like zirconium and titanium helped bolster the space race.

Around the time of Mr. Streiff’s arrival, the company changed its name from John Nooter Boiler Works to Nooter Corp. to reflect its range of services. Estimated sales at the privately owned company were $20 million.

Mr. Streiff led Nooter during the late 1980s and early ’90s. By the time he retired, more than 80 percent of their customers were seeking Nooter out for bids. It had become an international corporation with several subsidiaries, a workforce of more than 800 and annual sales estimated at more than $350 million.

Mr. Streiff was born on Oct. 31, 1927. He was the younger of John Streiff, a baker, and Gertrude Streiff’s two children. He grew up in Ballwin, which had no high school at the time. After graduating from Kirkwood High School, he entered the U.S. Navy and served in the Philippines during World War II.

The G.I. Bill, for which he was “very, very thankful,” his son said, allowed him to attend Washington University, from which he graduated in 1951. A year earlier, he had married the former Vera Paulding, a teller whom he’d met at his local Ballwin bank.

Mr. Streiff was on the board of directors of the old Deaconess Hospital and Foundation and Ranken Technical College, where he served from 1988 to 2005.

“As president and later chairman of the board of the Nooter Corp., Mr. Streiff’s hard work and continued support of Ranken’s mission resulted in unprecedented growth and prosperity for the school,” said Stan Shoun, Ranken’s president. “He will be missed, but not forgotten.”

He was a longtime member of Forest Hills Country Club and a 50-year member of the Missouri Athletic Club. There, he proudly held a seat at the Wall Street Table, one of the MAC’s duly named tables — there was also the Steel Table and the Gas and Oil Table — where the power brokers of the day solved the problems of the world over lunch.

"The old quote from Calvin Coolidge — 'press on' — typified (my dad's) approach to life," Paul Streiff said.  He was a very humble man who was very proud of his business, but most of his spare time was devoted to his family."

Mr. Streiff was preceded in death by his parents and older brother, John P. Streiff.

In addition to his wife of 64 years, his survivors include five children, Deb (Bob) Zimmermann, Paul (Gigi) Streiff, Bruce (Michelle) Streiff, Alison (Bruce) Thornton, all of the St. Louis area, and David (Lisa) Streiff, of Barrington, Ill.; thirteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be 4-8 p.m. Wednesday at the Schrader Funeral Home and Crematory, 14960 Manchester Road at Holloway, in Ballwin. A second visitation will be at 10:30 a.m. until the beginning of services at 11 a.m. on Thursday, at Bonhomme Presbyterian Church, 14820 Conway Road, in Chesterfield. Interment in St. John United Church of Christ Cemetery, in Manchester. 

Memorials would be appreciated to Ranken Technical College or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Gloria S. Ross is the head of Okara Communications and AfterWords, an obituary-writing and design service.