Obituary: WUSTL benefactor Edith L. Wolff, 93

EDITH L. WOLFF (nee Waldman), age 93, died on Friday, December 26, 2008, at Barnes Hospital after a brief illness. She was born in St. Louis on May 23, 1915. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband Alan A. Wolff, who died in 1989. She is survived by a sister, Pearl T. Oppenheim (Lester B.) and numerous nephews and nieces, including Morry Oppenheim (Angela P.), Helen J. Steiner (Jonas R.), Frank S. Oppenheim (Sherri P.), Sheldon H. Oppenheim, Rita O. Pozniakoff (Ted A.), Randy Waldman (Jill) and Frank Waldman, and by many great nieces and nephews. A brother, Sheldon Waldman and his beloved wife Johnnie Waldman, preceded Edith in death. A second brother, Marvin Waldman, also predeceased Edith.

Edith’s greatest joy in her life came from her marriage of more than 50 years to Alan A. Wolff. They were virtually inseparable companions and loved traveling, fishing and business. Mr. Wolff was the founder of Wolff Construction Company in the late 1940’s and developed numerous housing subdivisions, retail stores and shopping centers in the St. Louis metropolitan area, in the Missouri cities of Jefferson City, Sedalia, Independence and in the metropolitan Kansas City area. He retained and operated the Shopping Centers, most of which were built in conjunction with Kroger Company, and other retail properties through Wolff Construction Company.

Following Alan Wolff’s death in 1989, Edith became the President of Wolff Construction and its many subsidiaries and operated them successfully until her death. She also began a more active and public philanthropic career, and she sought to set an example of public giving in the hope that others might also increase their charitable giving within their means. She gave to numerous causes and charities, with the largest contributions being made to Washington University for scholarships and research in its Medical School, to Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, to St. Louis ARC and its Childgarden School, to Life Skills Foundation, to Miriam Foundation and to Rainbow Village Foundation. In 2007, Edith made a large gift to Washington University to establish The Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Institute within the University’s School of Medicine to provide funds to advance the most promising areas of biomedical research at Washington University.

Mrs. Wolff’s significant charitable contributions have been previously recognized by numerous awards from the organizations which she benefited, including an honorary degree in 2004 as a doctor of medicine from the prestigious Washington University.

Edith was a resident of Clayton, Missouri for more than 60 years, living in the same home that she and Alan Wolff acquired in the 1930’s. She was a member of B’nai Amoona Congregation. She was a person of ideas and integrity who freely gave her advice and monies to help others. She was a friend to many and will be sorely missed.

Funeral services will be held at 10:00 am on Tuesday, December 30, 2008, at Berger Funeral Home at 4715 McPherson Avenue in the City of St. Louis. Rabbi Bernard Lipnick will officiate. Burial will follow with a gravesite service for family and close friends at B’nai Amoona Cemetery at 930 North and South Road in University City, Missouri. Following the burial service, Edith’s family will host a luncheon and receive neighbors and friends at her home at 724 Audubon in Clayton during the afternoon and evening. In lieu of flowers, Edith’s friends are encouraged to make a charitable donation to a charity of their choice.