One of our greatest pleasures at Ladue News is bringing you the stories of truly dynamic people who are changing St. Louis for the better. Congratulations to this year’s class of honorees—we hope their stories serve as inspiration!
She already had the stove, so Shelley Donaho jokes, “I bought the house to go with the stove.” Before becoming the keeper of one of St. Louis’ architectural gems, Donaho had visited the house before—she had even met the previous owner. Designed by Ernst Janssen, the 12,000-square foot historical marvel was originally built in one year’s time for $49,500; these days, if using the same quality of materials, that isn’t even enough money to repair the exterior railing.
Chef and restaurateur Ben Poremba has made quite a name for himself in the local culinary scene in recent years. His places—Elaia & Olia, La Patisserie Choquette and Old Standard Fried Chicken—have brought a wide range of good food and drink to St. Louis. Poremba’s efforts have garnered him plenty of attention locally and beyond, including being named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Best Chef: Midwest award in 2014, and as one of 10 chefs who vied for Food & Wine magazine’s People’s Best New Chef: Midwest title that year, as well.
Dr. Robert Bergamini chose pediatric oncology as his medical specialty almost 35 years ago because he knew it was challenging: He saw it as an opportunity to care for sick children and their families, part of "doing the complete job of providing care for the entire family unit," he explains. And while you may assume working with cancer-stricken children would be emotion-ally draining, when asked how he copes, Bergamini pauses and then says simply, “We have fun.”
Autographed St. Louis Cardinals photographs line the walls of Richard Mark’s office—an impressive collection any Redbirds fan would envy. But if you look a little closer, you’ll see what’s especially unique about the custom-framed shots: They all include an Ameren billboard in the background, a special nod to the local executive's career.
When you pick up a book, it can take you to another world: You could become a county sheriff charged with protecting the life of a controversial politician, or a teenage theme park guide who is suddenly tasked with stopping Disney’s most evil villains—or maybe even Peter Pan meeting Captain Hook for the very first time. And author Ridley Pearson, whose works include the adult suspense series Risk Agent, Walt Fleming and the children’s Kingdom Keepers and Starcatchers series, among others, has built almost 50 worlds where adults and kids alike can escape.
The country’s oldest outdoor musical theater already is gearing up for an exciting 100th anniversary season in 2018, and while The Muny’s artistic director/executive producer, Mike Isaacson, deeply appreciates this St. Louis institution’s history, he is focused squarely on its future. “We’re not creating ‘museum theater,’ ” he says. “Yes, it’s a historic experience—you’ll always have the stage, the trees, the stars and the ritual. But the work on stage has to feel like it’s about the present. The future is what’s interesting to me; and the way we tell stories, and the technology we use need to be present-tense and future-tense. I want the audience members to look at the creativity on stage and say Look at this...and this is us.” To Isaacson, The Muny is a proxy for the city, and when it’s exciting and cutting-edge, it’s akin to the Cardinals winning the World Series—when everyone feels good about St. Louis.
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