By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
Evelyn Edison Newman–successful marketer, noted philanthropist, icon of St. Louis society and wife of legendary numismatist Eric P. Newman–died on Tuesday, September 1, at the age of 95.
Her work was an inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere and her life was and is a model to anyone who values their local community and seeks to make life better for the people who live in it.
Born on July 25, 1920 in Atlanta, Georgia, Evelyn Edison was a toddler when the Edison Brothers shoe store was founded. When she was nine, the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri–at the time, the epicenter of the retail shoe business in America. At its height, the company operated 2,000 stores and was the largest chain of women’s footwear retailers in the nation. The publicly-traded company went out of business in 1995.
After private school in St. Louis, she attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland before returning to St. Louis to attend Washington University, a frequent recipient of the Newmans’ charity work over the ensuing decades.
She married Eric P. Newman, then a lawyer for Edison Brothers Stores, in 1939. The couple celebrated their 75th anniversary in 2014. Over the course of a vibrant and well-lived life together, the couple became renowned for their philanthropy. The pair established the Eric P. Newman Education Center at the Washington University School of Medicine and in 2004 founded the Newman Money Museum at the Washington University Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts.
More recently, the Eric P. & Evelyn E. Newman Foundation was established with about $60 million in proceeds from the sale of the Newman Collection of coins and currency.
But much of what she achieved she did on her own. She began her business career at May Department Stores but soon moved on to the family business as a buyer and later as a developer of retail concepts.
She founded the Greater St. Louis Book Fair, which was originally a fundraiser for the Nursery Foundation, the city’s first interracial daycare.
After a trip to Europe (the couple was always traveling), she came back home inspired by the different approach to buying and selling that she’d seen in a Roma camp and established the Gypsy Caravan to help fund the St. Louis Symphony Society.
In 1960, she set up the high-end clothing store known as Scholarshop. To date, profits from the store’s two locations have provided almost $23 million in interest-free loans to help prospective college students get a higher education.
She established the CAMELOT Auction in 1968 to help fund the Arts and Education Council of St. Louis.
A trip to Thailand inspired the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House in Faust County Park
She founded the Evelyn E. Newman Group in 1982, which provided expert business advice to nonprofit organizations.
In the 1980s, she served as the first director of Forest Park Forever, an organization dedicated to conserving St. Louis’ landmark public park. She later stopped working with Forest Park Forever but the organization’s successful Hat Luncheon fundraisers are the product of her hard work and imagination.
Whenever someone is as energetic and productive as Evelyn Newman was, it’s hard to say that she always got the credit she deserved. But thankfully, she received many honors for her work during her lifetime, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the Robert S. Brookings Award from her alma mater, Washington University.
In 1959, she was given the first Women of Achievement’s Creative Philanthropy Award.
She also received the first St. Louis Arts & Education Council Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992.
Over the last few years, she maintained a blog called The Savvy Sage and helped fund the Newman Green addition to the public parks system of Clayton, where the Newmans lived their entire married lives.
She died at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis after a brief illness. She requested to have no funeral or memorial service, bequeathing her body to Washington University School of Medicine, and suggested that those who wish to remember her should donate to the local charities of their choice. She is survived by her two children: Linda Newman Schapiro of New York and Andrew Newman of St. Louis; her brother Julian Edison, also of St. Louis; and her husband, Eric.
She is also survived by five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Condolences may be sent to evelynenewman[at]aol[dot]com.
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