Our second profile on Local Women of Worth to be honored by the Gateway Voice of Mid-Life and Older Women (OWL) is Judith Gall who will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Annual WOW Awards dinner at the Missouri Athletic Club on October 13.
Judith started volunteering at an early age when she was a candy striper at a local hospital in her home town of Cincinnati, OH, and it has been a long road to the Lifetime Achievement Award.
She said her best advice came from a “good friend who helped me with my first capital campaign. I had never asked anyone for a nickel, a penny for anything. And I said ‘I just can’t do that! I’ve never asked people for money. What if they refuse me?’ He said ‘Go out and ask them and if they turn you down, just thank them politely for their time,’ and go on with your life!’”
She said she has a hard time forgetting, “especially when it they are ones you have been counting on. It’s hard to say thank you very much and go on with my life. But there have been many that have been very generous and really nice.”
She began working at Jewish Hospital, where she is now a lifetime member of the auxiliary, when the displaced persons from World War II were coming through from the displacement camps after they had been in the concentration camps.
“It was a sad time, for the most part,” she said.
Gall has her mother to thank for her active foray into volunteerism. Her parents were in Florida when they met a woman from St. Louis who had a daughter that was active in volunteer work.
“The daughter’s mother said she would have her call me, and my mother said she thought that wouldn’t happen, but it did,” Gall said. “Her name was Virginia Zimmerman (now Sharp) and she was dynamic. She got me involved with the Miriam School, and it was a wonderful experience. They do such fabulous things for learning disabled children.
She chaired a capital campaign for a new school, then she and her husband, both strong advocates for the school, served as Honorary Co-chairs of a 2010 Gala that raised over $2 million to build a new gymnasium.
Another special project of Gall’s is the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center which she helped found by serving as the first chairperson of the docents, many of whom are survivors, and the Friends of the Museum, the fundraising arm. She is also a member of the executive board.
Each year she and Ira sponsor (in honor of their grandchildren) the Student Holocaust Art & Writing Contest. The competition is dedicated to the memory of the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust.
“It’s amazing some of the essays that have been written,” she said. “Tears will roll down your cheeks. Now, some are doing videos that are really good.”
The Galls have been strong advocates for the Miriam School - most recently as Honorary Co-chairs of a 2010 Gala that raised over $2 million to build a new gymnasium.
The uneven economy has not seemed to diminish St. Louisians’ capacity for giving, she said. People opened their pockets to her for the Miriam School gymnasium.
“It’s interesting because if people care about whatever it is, and certainly parents care, grandparents care, and people involved in the community that know about the school and know the children we serve care. When so many people know the family, they want to be helpful,” she said. “It took us no time. We were so far ahead of schedule, and it finished last December.”
Gall also serves on the Metropolitan Employment and Rehabilitation Services (MERS)-Goodwill Board. Her past boards include the Jewish Family and Children’s Service, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, the Jewish Book Festival, Logos School, Temple Israel Sisterhood, and program chair of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society at Washington University.
Although their lives have not been untouched by tragedy – their oldest son, Jeffrey, died in a scuba accident in Thailand nine years ago Judith remains steadfast in her commitment to her community and to their other sons, Steven and Tom, and their grandchildren, Jocelyn, Andrew, Brett, and Melissa.”
Her view on life can be summoned up in four words. “We are so lucky.”