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Body thought to be I.E. Millstone is recovered from the Missouri River

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 2 - A body recovered from the Missouri River Tuesday morning has been tentatively identified as I.E. Millstone, 102, a prominent St. Louis businessman and philanthropist.

Mr. Millstone was reported missing on May 16, when he was believed to have leapt from the Daniel Boone Bridge into the Missouri River. A grandson made the tentative identification.

Corporal Lou Amighetti of the Missouri State Water Patrol said a call came at 6:40 a.m. Tuesday from the crew of a dredging operation. The call reported seeing a body tangled in debris.

The body was recovered just south of the Blanchette Memorial Bridge, about 12 miles downstream from the Boone Bridge. Both bridges connect St. Louis and St. Charles counties. Officers of the St. Charles police and fire departments joined the water patrol in the recovery effort. Amighetti said the body was transported to the St. Louis County medical examiner.

Millstone family members said through a spokesman the identification has not been confirmed.

"Although the body pulled from the Missouri River this morning has been tentatively identified as that of our grandfather, we are awaiting confirmation from the St. Louis Medical Examiner's Office, which we expect to receive tomorrow or Thursday."

The family thanked the state highway and water patrols, and the St. Charles police and fire departments "for their persistent efforts, under difficult conditions, to locate the body."

If the medical examiner confirms the body is Mr. Millstone, a private interment would follow, the spokesman said. A memorial service for Mr. Millstone was conducted at United Hebrew Temple in Chesterfield on Sun., May 31. 

Read the Beacon's coverage of the memorial service below. 

If a memorial service can effectively embody both the spirit and image of the person it recalls and celebrates, the obsequies Sunday morning (May 31) at the United Hebrew Congregation in Chesterfield formed an extraordinary representation of I.E. Millstone.

Mr. Millstone, who died May 16 after jumping from the Daniel Boone Bridge into the Missouri River, was a genuinely dignified man, meticulously turned out, modest in demeanor yet justifiably proud of his accomplishments. 

He was described as witty, wise and magnanimous. His philanthropies were legion. At 102, he remained, as his friend William H. Danforth said in his tribute, a vital force in his personal life and in the affairs of the community.

These brushstrokes of accomplishments and qualities conspired with the ancient poetry, prayers and psalms of Judaism to bring forth a vivid picture of a luminous personality, and served symbolically to summon him into the room one last time.

Dr. Danforth noted that Mr. Millstone appreciated having things named for him, and that he liked to be out and about, and that he enjoyed the company of others. Given all that, it is a safe wager this memorial service would have been a happy occasion for him.

A living memorial

St. Louisans just have to open their eyes and look around them to find memorials to I.E. Millstone. Early in his career, he installed the Milles fountain in front of Union Station, he built a synagogue that's now a center for the arts and a stunning modern apartment building. These are just a few. His firm built Northwest and Crestwood plazas, put down the runways at Lambert and paved our roads.

An ugly incident could have cast a pall on the proceedings had the service not been so emotionally resonant, and so scrupulously organized and conducted.

The incident was acted out near the intersection of Conway and Woods Mill Roads, around the corner from the Temple. A cluster of men and women bearing obnoxious and offensive anti-Jewish and anti-Israel signs stood by the side of the road, reminding all who passed by, be they on their way to the memorial service or not, of the persistence of a particularly lethal and recurring phenomenon of Jewish history, virulent anti-Semitism.

No mention of the demonstration was made in the sanctuary of the Temple, which is named in honor of Mr. Millstone.

Rabbi Howard Kaplansky and Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg officiated. Dr. Danforth, former chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, whose friendship with Mr. Millstone extends back 44 years, gave a personal and at times emotional tribute. Mr. Millstone was a long-time member of the university's board of trustees.

Rabbi Kaplansky spoke first. He said the service was to celebrate the fullness and richness of Mr. Millstone’s life. The rabbi likened Mr. Millstone to three towering figures in the history of the Jews: Moses, the leader of the Children of Israel; Solomon, the royal wise man; and Abraham, the patriarch, the curator of the history of the Jews and the visionary who would perpetuate them and move them purposefully forward.

Kaplansky recalled Mr. Millstone began his career in business at United Hebrew, when as a boy he established a coat checking service at an earlier location of the congregation. He limned Mr. Millstone’s career as he established himself as a major builder of roads and public facilities both in the St. Louis region and in Israel. There, in 1948, he was called upon by David Ben-Gurion to help build the infrastructure of the new Jewish state.

He spoke of Mr. Millstone’s open-purse policy in regard to philanthropy, restrained only by an insistence that his money go for projects that would bring about change for the good. Kaplansky noted Mr. Millstone’s antipathy for wealthy men and women who are stingy and removed from active participation in the affairs of the region.

Dr. Danforth said Mr. Millstone never became an old man but remained active in civic affairs until the day he died. Danforth acknowledged, however, the circumstances surrounding his death.

“Age caught up with him,” Danforth said, and noted Mr. Millstone saw reality as it was, and made his plans accordingly and acted upon those plans. Thus, Danforth said, “he remained in charge of his destiny.”

“I am thankful for having known him,” Danforth concluded. He also read from a letter written to Mr. Millstone by his grandson, Bob Millstone, in which the younger man expressed a simple yet potent sentiment shared by many assembled in the temple.

“You made my life better.”

Robert W. Duffy reported on arts and culture for St. Louis Public Radio. He had a 32-year career at the Post-Dispatch, then helped to found the St. Louis Beacon, which merged in January with St. Louis Public Radio. He has written about the visual arts, music, architecture and urban design throughout his career.