LaVerne Meyering, Crestview Senior Living
LaVerne Meyering’s career as a professional dancer involved performing at The Muny and on Broadway and teaching local talent. The 80-year-old remembers taking her first dance lessons at age 6. “I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to make my life about dance.” Her Muny years began in 1945 at age 17. “I did 12 shows a year for five years, including Showboat, The Vagabond King and The Firefly,” she says. In the ‘50s, Meyering performed on Broadway, toured with Red Bell, and appeared on TV and in nightclubs.
When Meyering left the stage, she returned to St. Louis to teach. For a time, she taught dance and served as assistant director for the St. Louis Civic Ballet. Later, she became director of Cherokee Recreation Center, a job from which she retired in 1990.
Of all her life’s work, Meyering says she enjoyed teaching the most. “I helped students benefit from my experience.” She points out that while dancing may be glamorous, it takes a lot of dedication and hard work. “It’s a 12-hour-a-day job. It’s not just about getting on stage, there are also rehearsals and classes to attend. Plus, you don’t always have job security. When you audition, you may be one of 500 people trying out for a single job,” she says. “You have to love dance to be successful and happy with it as a career.”
Geraldine Obermoeller, The Cedars at the JCA
At 92, Geraldine Obermoeller has nothing but fond memories of her years in the military, serving as a nurse in the Air Transport Command during World War II. “The country needed all the help it could get, so I volunteered,” she says.
As a military nurse, Obermoeller stayed in the States and tended to the wounded returning from war. Despite the sobering effects of battle, she says the job never overwhelmed her. “I loved my work, and still miss working to this day.”
Obermoeller was born in Mattoon, Ill., but moved to St. Louis with her family when she was a young girl. She and her late husband, Edward, raised a daughter, and she now has two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Obermoeller says she’s grateful for the 20 years she spent in the service because it gave her the blueprint on how to live her life. “It gave me discipline in all aspects of my life,” she says. “I believe it’s something that’s lacking in the world today.”
Stuart Trottmann, Mari de Villa Retirement Community
New Jersey native Stuart Trottmann moved to St. Louis in the 1950s to start a promising career at Southwestern Bell. “The AT&T company brought me here from New York to work in the PR department,” he says. “I spent the next 31 years downtown at 10th and Pine up until I retired in 1982.” At the time of his retirement, Trottmann was vice president of the company.
His four-decade career at AT&T and Southwestern Bell involved doing everything from writing speeches to undergoing a 19-week field training. “I spent time with installers, linemen and repairmen, riding in the back of the truck,” he recalls. “They wanted to make sure we understood how the phone company worked from the inside out.” One of his most memorable experiences was meeting Broadway stars. “When I was working in New York, I worked on the company’s musical radio program, Monday Night Telephone Hour, and got to meet people like Arthur Rubenstein and Mary Martin.”
This year, Trottman and his wife, Mary, are celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary. Both widowed, the Trottmans met at Algonquin Golf Club in the mid-‘80s. “We met as golf buddies, and about a year later, we got married.”
Now 91, Trottmann enjoys keeping busy and laments the fact that he’s “not busy enough.” Over the years, he’s kept active by bowling and playing tennis, golf and gin rummy. He and his wife also enjoy going to the symphony. From time to time, he still draws on his PR skills by helping raise money for Good Shepherd School for Children, a school that serves students with special needs. “I served as president of the board for four years. Now my son is president,” he says. “I’m really happy with what we’ve done to help Good Shepherd, and very proud of the fact that they named a wing of the school in our honor.”
Jim Whitney, Crestview Senior Living
Jim Whitney has always had a creative side. At 85 years old, he’s started work on a second book to follow up his World War II novel, You Have Been Selected. “I read profusely, especially histories, to help form my own perspective,” he says. “I also studied how guys like Ernest Hemingway wrote, and from there, I taught myself to write.”
Whitney describes himself as “a small-town kid from Ann Arbor, Michigan.” He enlisted in the Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he moved to St. Louis. “(My future wife) Marjorie was from St. Louis, so we moved to Kirkwood and raised our family there.”
Whitney would soon launch a career in advertising, landing Peabody Coal as one of his major accounts. He was eventually hired to do public relations for Peabody. “I traveled so much, I was hardly home,” he recalls. “It was back in the day of the strip mine controversy, so it was a nightmare scenario for a lot of us who worked there.” He retired from Peabody in 1982, and moved to Lake of the Ozarks, where he started his own consulting business in 1984.
During those years, Whitney says he practically lived on the water. “I was on that lake every day at sunrise,” he recalls. “In fact, one of only two times I remember crying was when I had to sell my home on the lake. The other time was when I sold my 1995 Mustang convertible.”
Public relations in this day and age is a whole new ballgame, Whitney says. “The computer runs everything today,” he says. “You’d have to graduate with some kind of computer degree to have a better chance of surviving in public relations and/or advertising. The computer changed everything.”