Sarah Kate Otto Love

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    - Anne Cox
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Sarah Kate Otto Love was a dedicated participant in the civic and cultural life of the region and a major figure in the renewal of the Central West End and Forest Park. She died at home on Wednesday, December 20, 2017. She was 74.

Mrs. Love was a stalwart and creative leader of major cultural projects in the City of St. Louis. She was instrumental in the initiation of the revival of the region's greatest urban open-space asset, Forest Park, the creation and development of New City School, and contributed to the revival of opera in St. Louis.

From there, her commitment to exuberant living spanned the field and was broad enough to include horse breeding and performance, gracious entertaining, and a generous hospitality to a range of guests, including seminary students, opera impresarios, directors and singers, Missouri Botanical Garden botanists, Middle Eastern refugees, graduate students, family of a major surgery patient at BJC, and an assortment of chickens, horses, and dogs, stray as well as pedigreed, all of whom became part of her household. She once hosted a pair of camels performing for the Fox Theater and the occasional Circus Flora creature in her back yard, and Mrs. Turkey was a regular breakfast guest for several years.

One of Mrs. Love's first civic improvement efforts came in 1968, when she rented a carriage house in what was then the frayed Lafayette Park neighborhood. The building was in Benton Place. With one grand mansion and smaller Second Empire-inspired houses, Benton Place was full of potential. Mrs. Love saw it and rented the building where she worked on a number of projects having to do with civic and educational advancement.

She responded creatively and energetically when she saw a need. For example, when members of the Roman Catholic Religious of the Sacred Heart order moved to St. Louis County- and closed their in-town schools, City House and Barat Hall- grave concerns for the future of the neighborhood were given voice.

Mrs. Love and like-minded residents shaped an educational initiative that grew organically from a bold experiment into a world-famous school known for building on the concepts of multiple intelligences.

This was New City School, now nearing its golden jubilee in a landmark Collegiate Gothic building at Lake and Waterman avenues, around the corner from her residence, which was attended by all three of her children. Decades ago, New City established itself as a first-class educational resource for the region and a laboratory for innovative teaching programs.

Thomas R. Hoerr was head of school at New City for 34 years and now its emeritus head:

"When I think about Peasy, I think of a woman who was a visionary with high standards. From the inception of the school, she worked to bring that vision to life. Every student subsequently has benefitted from her energy and ideals."

She was inspired by the L'Abri Fellowship, a Christian evangelical tradition founded by Francis and Edith Schaeffer in Huémoz-sur-Ollon, Switzerland. Mrs. Love studied at L'Abri soon after she graduated from Smith College in 1965. "It was an important time in her life," said Nancy Yuille, a friend of Mrs. Love and a member of the Fellowship, which played a role in the inspiration of a new local church.

Yuille said the congregation met first in 1969 in a living room in the Parkview neighborhood, and then, in 1970, in a storefront at Kingsbury and Des Peres boulevards. Mrs. Love had a hand in the organization of the congregation here, which came to be called Grace and Peace Fellowship. Nowadays it meets in a church at Clara Avenue and Delmar Boulevard. She was also a longtime member of Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Religion was a vital force not only in her spiritual life but also in civic involvements, which she believed were manifestations of her faith.

Mrs. Love was a graduate of Mary Institute - interestingly, a school that at the turn of the century had occupied the New City School building.

Forest Park is a 1371-acre natural and architectural wonderland, home to egrets, turkeys, and foxes as well as major cultural institutions and remnants of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and World's Fair. Its assets include indigenous and exotic flora and fauna and extensive resources for sports and outdoor recreation. Created in the late 19th century, by the 1960s it was falling apart.

Mrs. Love and others recognized this as a huge problem, and banded together to devote time and treasure to the renovation and preservation of the park. She was a leader in the establishment of Forest Park Forever, which she served as an early board chairman and which is a private organization that works in tandem with the city's parks and recreation department to maintain and, where needed, to refurbish one of the nation's most dynamic city parks.

In 1969, she married lawyer, businessman, and St. Louis native Andrew S. Love, and the couple settled into his family's house in St. Louis County. A few years later, when their eldest children, Martha and Sproule, were toddlers, the family bought a house in the Central West End, where they have lived since.

It proved to be a propitious move for all concerned. Mrs. Love recognized not only the grace and beauty of the West End but also the grave deficiencies in the fabric of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Mrs. Love also had entrepreneurial interests. With her friend, Jane Winter, she founded Wildflowers, a florist operating in the flower district on the near south side of the city. Although she was not involved actively in recent years, she left a creative stamp on the operation that continued until recently under Winter's leadership.

Sarah Kate Otto Love was born in 1943 at St. Louis Maternity Hospital, which sits on the edge of Forest Park and is located a mile or so from Mrs. Love's home in the Central West End. She grew up in Creve Coeur, and was educated at Mary Institute from kindergarten to her graduation in 1961. She was a graduate of Smith College, Northampton, MA, and attended the Institute of Fine Arts in New York City.

She was given the nickname Peasy as a young child. It stuck and she carried the name with her through life.

In addition to civic and commercial involvements, she was also a generous financial supporter of numerous charitable and cultural endeavors.

Mr. and Mrs. Love have three children: Martha Farr Love of Portland, ME, Laura Kate Love of Bozeman, MT, and Daniel Sproule Love of New York City, as well as three grandchildren.

Services: A Memorial Service will be conducted on Saturday, December 30, at 12:00 Noon at Grace and Peace Fellowship, 5574 Delmar Blvd. at Clara Avenue.

The family requests that memorial donations be made to the Knox Museum of Thomaston, Maine; Forest Park Forever; or New City School.

Funeral Home
Lupton Chapel - St. Louis
7233 Delmar Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63130
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Published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch from Dec. 24 to Dec. 28, 2017
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