Jeanne Zorensky: Antiques dealer and porcelain collector
Jeanne Zorensky, who owned a popular Clayton antiques store in the 1970s, and who was a lifetime supporter and active member of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel (BSKI) Congregation, died Monday at her home in Clayton. She was 83 years old and had been battling cancer, according to family members. She was the widow of Milton Zorensky, a shopping center developer, who died in 2005.
Mrs. Zorensky was born in St. Louis on Sept. 6, 1928, the daughter of Ben and Bea Sterneck. She grew up in Salem, Ill. along with her brother Morris and sister Marcia Sterneck. She decided she would graduate from Salem High School in three years and by taking extra credit courses did so as an honor student. After graduation she attended the University of Wisconsin.
To say that Jeanne Zorensky had a lifetime love affair with BSKI Congregation would not be an exaggeration. When she was 18 years old she attended Rosh Hashanah services at the synagogue when it was located on Delmar Boulevard. There she met Milton Zorensky.
Rabbi Mordecai Miller of BSKI said in his eulogy Tuesday that "Milton knew right away that she was 'the one.' He asked her on a date. She said she was busy. She came home and told her parents, 'I met a man outside the shul today. His name is Milton Zorensky, but I don't know him. Her father said, 'I know his family and they're a wonderful family. If he asks you out again, you'll go.'
“Jeanne said, 'I know he'll call me again.' Sure enough he called. They went out for five weeks and then they were engaged; she was 18 years old. Her mother asked her, 'Aren't you a little young?' Jeanne told her mother, 'It's not when you marry, it's who you marry.'"
Jeanne and Milton Zorensky were married March 2, 1947.
Fish and chips
Mrs. Zorensky, early in her marriage, developed a lifelong interest in antique ceramics and pottery, and with her husband Milton created a major collection. She was especially interested in 18th-century English porcelain, and the couple published the most authoritative book on Worcester porcelain.
Miller noted that Milton Zorensky at first "humored" his wife, but they later became "hooked on Wedgewood (pieces). On all their trips they would make it a point to visit antique shops and hunt for precious ware. Their nicknames were Fish and Chips. She would 'fish' for the pieces, and he would look for the chipped pieces."
He added that the Zorenskys donated much of their Wedgewood collection to the St. Louis Art Museum. From 1970 to 1979, Mrs. Zorensky ran a popular antique store, Antiques & Uniques, which sold porcelain, on Maryland Avenue in Clayton. She also sold antique and estate jewelry.
"Three or four times a year they would go to England to make their purchases. It gave them a lot of pleasure,” Miller said. “They loved it."
At Mrs. Zorensky's funeral Tuesday at BSKI, BSKI Rabbi Emeritus Benson Skofff expressed appreciation for Mrs. Zorensky's loyalty to the synagogue, supporting its rabbis, building campaigns and its entire schedule of religious, cultural and social activities.
Both rabbis stressed the closeness of Mrs. Zorensky's family, and similar sentiments were expressed by her daughter Deborah Zorensky and grandson Heath Corson.
Deborah Zoresnky said her mother was "a strong willed woman and did things her way up to the end. She followed the rules that she liked and made up new ones to make things her way. Her family sat at her bedside for 10 days as she bent every rule of dying....Now that she is gone, it seems those 10 days went too fast."
Deborah Zorensky also expressed admiration for her mother's skills in needlepointing and other crafts. "She was an expert needle-pointer and one year made belts for all the grandsons. They were individual sweaters for the grandchildren. She had a knack for arranging furniture and porcelain in the most beautiful way... People always noticed her nails and her hands. Even when she was dying, her nails were painted and beautiful. I want everyone to know that those perfect nails were hers and they were not fake."
She also recalled her mother's long support of BSKI. "I remember when Brith Sholom merged and moved into (its present Linden Avenue) building and we had the booth-a-rama to raise money for the congregation. Mom made 100 different outfits for 100 dolls that were raffled off. Each doll she dressed was better than the previous doll's outfit"
Mrs. Zorensky was also active with the Women's Division of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, and she and her husband hosted major events in support of the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign. Many of her family members have also been active in the Jewish Federation and its annual campaign and on the boards of various Jewish agencies.
Survivors include daughters Tina Corson (Bruce) of Chicago and Deborah Zorensky of St. Louis; sons Mark Zorensky (Karen) of St. Louis and Elliot Zorensky (Jodi). She was preceded in death by another son, L. Allen Zorensky. Also surviving are her brother, Morris Sterneck (Rosalie) of St. Louis and sister, Marcia Sterneck.
Burial was private.
Memorial contributions are preferred to the L. Allen Zorensky Fund, Jewish Federation of St. Louis, 12 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis, Mo. 63146, or a charity of the donor's choice.
Robert A. Cohn is editor emeritus of the St. Louis Jewish Light