Bettie Louise Gershman died peacefully in her home on April 21, 2020, surrounded by her children. Bettie was the beloved daughter of Sam and Minnie Rabushka and is survived by her three children—Karen (Thomas) Stern, Jeffrey (Prue) Gershman and Diane Levine (Dr. James Jenkins), along with 8 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. She is the beloved sister of Gerald (Sherry) Rabushka. Bettie’s life was defined by devotion to those she loved and by excellence in all that she pursued.
As a teenager of just 16, Bettie was dancing in a program and was noticed by a handsome Air Force officer, Solon Gershman. That began a life-long love affair spanning over 60 years, in which they became civic leaders and philanthropists, impacting the arts, the medical community, and the St. Louis community at large.
Bettie attended Clayton High School and Stevens College and then went on to graduate from the St. Louis Institute of Music where she studied piano. Her path to becoming a concert pianist was interrupted by motherhood but she continued to play for many years. Her love of dance was shared by Solon as they enjoyed the dance floor throughout their lives, learning new steps and wowing crowds. Bettie loved to entertain and became an expert in gourmet French cooking. She and Solon loved travel and had the opportunity to see the world, often including her children and grandchildren in those adventures.
Bettie played tennis, golf, mahjong, and bridge (she became a “life master”). She was a voracious reader and a passionate member of the St. Louis County Library Board of Directors, a role that continued until the last decade of her life. Bettie was an active volunteer, as she served as both a board member and board president of the Miriam School; she also served on the board of the St. Louis Symphony and volunteered at Barnes Jewish Hospital for many years.
Bettie and Solon were involved in many charities. They established a program at Temple Israel to drive people to religious services who were otherwise unable to attend.
They were major donors to The St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Zoo, The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, The Jewish Community Center, Covenant Place, Washington University Medical School (where they endowed the Chair for Colorectal surgery), and many others.
Bettie was an independent woman who continued to be a generous philanthropist long after Solon’s passing, often supporting people and causes before they could even ask for help. She was known to be fun-loving, kind, outspoken, stoic and beautiful. She was a devoted friend, always had a smile and was a “doer”—she jumped in when things needed to be done and did them well.
Following the loss of her husband, she became involved in the leadership of the Boards of Directors for the family businesses.
Later life brought health challenges which truly showed her strength and grit. She was tough and smart and made a choice to live every moment to the fullest in spite of handicaps that would have stopped most people. She is recognized in St. Louis for her dignity and courage—of which her family is most proud.
The family wants to extend special gratitude to her longtime caregivers, Erin, Jamie, Carrie and Margie as well as to her longtime housekeeper, Frances. Friends at the Plaza building, where she lived, continued to love and support her until the end.
A private family service will be held. Visit bergermemorialchapel.com for more information.
For those wishing to honor the life of Bettie Gershman, donations would be welcomed to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation or the charity of one’s choice.
BERGER MEMORIAL SERVICE