Eugene P. “Gene” Slay
A devoted husband and father, an outstanding businessman and philanthropist, Gene was often described as both a teddy bear and tiger.
Eugene P. Slay was born in 1927. Gene was one of seven children growing up on Hickory Street in south St. Louis. Gene was a sports enthusiast throughout his life. At McKinley High School, he excelled in football, baseball, track, and wrestling. In 1944, as a teenager, he was the Missouri State and Ozark A.A.U. Wrestling Champion. He was offered an athletic scholarship to Saint Louis University but World War II had not yet ended and he was drafted for military service. He proudly served from 1945 to 1947; he was in the 7th Division of the U.S. Army, serving his tour of duty in Korea and Japan.
Upon his return from military service, Mr. Slay met his future wife Joan Schadlbauer on the Admiral Cruise ship in St. Louis. They married in 1952 at St. Vincent Catholic Church where he had attended grade school. Together they had seven children: Jeanne, Gary (Laura), Guy (Bob), Glen (Carla), Jill (Jeff) Garlich, Janet (Matt) Westphal, Jeffrey, and twelve grandchildren: Gary, Jacob, Natalie, Kayla, Olivia, Glen, Joanie, Julia, Jeffrey, Alex, Sabrina, and Anthony.
Family was important to him, and like his father, Gene has strong entrepreneurial skills. In 1948, Gene joined his father and began making deliveries throughout the city for the transportation company. During this time, he nurtured relationships with established clients and began developing new customers; his advancement with the company was rapid and impressive. Gradually, in addition to transportation, Gene developed warehousing, packaging, and barging operations, expanding his father’s small commercial enterprise into one of St. Louis’ largest privately held businesses, operating in 48 states, Canada, and Mexico. While growing his business, he was always mindful of helping others.
He believed it was an honor to give back and truly cherished the opportunity to be such a pillar in the philanthropic community. In the early 1960s, Gene, along with Danny Thomas, Alex Aboussie, and other influential Lebanese businessmen, helped form the St. Louis Chapter of ALSAC, the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities. The main focus of ALSAC was to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, fighting catastrophic illnesses and diseases affecting children. For his outstanding effort, Danny Thomas presented Gene with an award for outstanding support of the St. Louis Chapter of ALSAC and his other civic and charitable activities.
In 1993, he organized and chaired a benefit for war victims of Lebanon. The event was called “Lebanon We Care,” a Las Vegas-style variety show at the Fox Theatre. Headliners included Danny Thomas, Danny Grans, Rita Moreno, and other celebrities.
He was involved in countless charities and has been commended for his efforts decade after decade, including The Backstoppers, the St. Louis Italian Open for Children’s Charities, St. Louis Rams Chapter of NFL Alumni, Faith House, and the APDA.
As a boy, he was a member of the St. Louis Boy’s Club and found himself continually going back to the Club on South 11th Street to help and contribute toward the development of young boys in need. He served as President of the Club and became Chairman of the Board in 1993. He pursued his dream of creating an endowment large enough to become self-sustaining. Through his leadership, a premier annual golf outing at Norwood Hills Country Club was initiated and became the cornerstone of the fundraising to accomplish his dream. In 2006, in recognition of his long term contributions, the St. Louis Boy’s Club was renamed the Gene Slay’s Boys’ Club of St. Louis in his honor.
He believed that to be successful, one must know where he came from to truly know where he was going.
His family cherishes fond memories of his love of family and the excellent example he set by his compassion and generosity. His legacy will be the many lives he touched young and old, near and far, and the obvious ways he left the world a better place than he found it.