The Langer Brothers: Lives Devoted to Photography

Amelia Mansbach and her husband Henry Langer died in the 1920s and were survived by their two sons, my grandmother’s second cousins Joseph and Lester, both of whom were career photographers, Joseph for The Denver Post and Lester as a dark room technician. We saw that in 1930, Joseph was still living in Denver,1 but Lester was living in Kansas City.2 Neither brother was married at that time. Lester was a lodger in what appears to have been a large boarding house in Kansas City, and Joseph was living in a hotel in Denver. This post will look at their lives in more depth.

It was a challenge to learn much more about Lester, the younger of the two brothers. In 1940 he was still living in Kansas City, working as a photographer, and living at the Washington Hotel. According to the census record, he was married, but I found no other indication of a marriage, and he is not listed with another woman named Langer at the Washington Hotel.3 I believe this was an enumerator mistake, or Lester was lying. After all, he had listed his mother as his wife on his World War I draft registration. Lester was still living at the Washington Hotel two years later when he registered for the World War II draft (he was then 58 years old). And he was still working as a photographer—for Guy E. Smith.

Lester Langer, World War II draft registration, The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Missouri; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147; Box or Roll Number: 966. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942

I could find no other information about Lester in his years in Kansas City except for this news story about him being the victim of a robbery in 1930:

“Loot Is His By Priority,” Kansas City Star, March 11, 1930, p. 22

The only other reference I could initially find for Lester was an entry on FindAGrave indicating that he died on March 19, 1960, and was buried at Temple Israel Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.4 I contacted the synagogue affiliated with the cemetery where Lester was buried, and the archivist there told me that there are no other Langers buried there and that Lester was not a member of the congregation. I was not sure where else to look to learn more about Lester and how he ended up being buried in Memphis.

So I  joined the Tennessee Genealogy group on Facebook, and a very helpful member named Shannon located Lester’s death certificate, which opened the doors to the rest of his story.

Lester Langer death certificate, “Tennessee Deaths, 1914-1966,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 15 October 2018), 007552516 > image 33 of 2310; Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville.

Lester had died in the Baptist Hospital in Memphis, but was residing at the time of his death in the tiny village of Ridgely, Tennessee, located about 100 miles north of Memphis. Ridgely’s population in 1960 was 1,464. Why was Lester living there? His death certificate indicated that he was still a photographer working as a darkroom technician.

I contacted the local newspaper for Ridgely, The Lake County Banner, and they kindly sent me a copy of Lester’s obituary:

Lake County Banner, March 24, 1960, p. 5

From the obituary I learned that Lester had moved to Ridgely, Tennessee in 1954, just six years before he died, to work with W.L. Glover, a “nationally known livestock photographer,” who had purchased the photography business of Lester’s Kansas City employer, Guy E. Smith (the name mentioned on Lester’s World War II draft registration card) in 1952. The obituary said that Lester had worked for Smith for twenty years, so dating back to 1930 or so, when he was living in Kansas City.

Then I contacted one of W.L. Glover’s sons, Jere, who remembered Lester well and told me that Lester had also spent time in Hollywood where he did photography developing and printing for movie studios. From what I already knew about Lester’s career, I assume that he must have been in Hollywood sometime after 1920, when he was still in Denver, and before 1930, when he was already in Kansas City. Those must have been exciting days in the early years of the movie business. Unfortunately Jere did not have more details as he said that Lester had not talked very much about his Hollywood days.

Jere also told me that Lester “was well liked by everyone in the town. He had a good sense of humor and was a truly nice person.” He thought that Lester was probably the only Jew in the area.  Nevertheless, Lester had held on to his Jewish identity. His funeral was officiated by a rabbi, and he was buried in a Jewish cemetery. I found it particularly touching that a small number of residents of Ridgely, including the Glovers, traveled all the way to Memphis to attend the funeral, as noted in the obituary.

So from knowing almost nothing about Lester, I now have a fairly complete picture of Lester Langer’s life, thanks to the generosity of Shannon from the Tennessee Genealogy group, the Lake County Banner, Temple Israel synagogue in Memphis, and Jere Glover.

Fortunately, it was easier to find information about Lester’s older brother Joseph—largely because Joseph worked for a newspaper. In fact, I was able to find news coverage about Joseph dating back as early as 1899 when he was just twenty years old and won an amateur photography contest with a photograph of the then-governor of Colorado laying the corner stone for a hospital in Denver:

“Joseph Langer Wins The Leslie Prize,” The Denver Post, September 3, 1899, p. 5

Not long after that, Joseph became a staff photographer for The Denver Post. In 1904 he took this photograph:

The Denver Post, January 2, 1904, p. 14

And in 1908 Joseph did this full page layout of photographs of the mayor of Denver, Robert Speer:

The Denver Post, January 19, 1908, p. 46

He also took this photograph of the Denver Post editorial board:

And here is a street photograph he took of a couple hoping to marry:

The Denver Post, July 10, 1909, p. 3

Obviously, these are not very good quality reproductions of the photographs as they are scans of photographs published in old newspapers, but they give a sense of the variety and volume of Joseph’s contribution to the newspaper.

Sometimes Joe Langer was himself the subject of articles, as in this 1911 article written when he broke his leg after slipping on ice. The newspaper wrote of the irony of him injuring himself this way in light of the risks he had taken for his job:

Denver Post, December 20, 1911, p. 7

The strangeness of the ways of fate is here again emphasized.  All newspaperdom familiar with Langer’s record as one of the pluckiest of press photographers and his hair-breadth escapes in the pursuance of his arduous and hazardous vocation, his daring exploits and his proverbial good luck while on perilous ventures—and now a slip and a trifling fall has laid him up in pain for perhaps six weeks!

The article then described some of his feats, including climbing up on the scaffolding on the spire of the new cathedral to get a birds-eye view of Denver and another time climbing up on the tower of a newly completed building, standing in the wind as it swayed, to get another shot of the city.

As noted in an earlier post, Joe served in the armed services intelligence division during World War I. In 1924 the Post published a whole article about Joe, celebrating his 22nd anniversary with the Denver Post:

Denver Post, March 3, 1924, p. 6

This article also heaped high praise on Joe for his work:

“Joe” has been struck by lightning, burned by flashlight powder, his camera has been smashed, he’s been cursed and lauded, rebuffed and welcomed, but he’s never lost his enthusiasm for the press photography fame, and if there is a better newscamera man in the world. The Post hasn’t been able to find him.

… In his twenty two years as The Post’s news photographer, Langer has exposed approximately 90,000 negatives.  If those negatives were placed end to end they would make a glass strip all the way from Denver to Arvada.

The news of Denver, as Langer has seen it thru his cameras, would fill a library. And the most interesting stories, because they are the inside and the most intimate stories of the big happenings of those one score and two years, would far surpass what has been printed.

The article also described some of Joe’s many challenging experiences over the years.

After his mother Amelia died in 1926, Joe retired and began to travel the world.5 In 1930 Joe Langer was one of a number of journalists sailing on the SS Resolute, when this photograph was taken:

Embed from Getty Images

I found one manifest for Joe on the SS Resolute in 1929,6 and Joe also traveled to South America in February 1930 on the SS Samaria,7 and in August he traveled on the SS St. Louis to Hamburg Germany.8 It is thus not surprising that I could not find Joe on the 1930 US census.

While searching on Google for more information about Joseph Langer and for more examples of his photographs, I ran across this image:

Embed from Getty Images

According to the caption with the photograph on the Getty Images website, “JAN 20 1933; Honeymooners are Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Langer of Denver, shown here as they reached New York recently after an eighteen-day cruise of the West Indies. For many years Langer was a photographer on The Denver Post staff. His bride was Miss Bertha Courlander of Denver. Following their wedding here they sailed from New York Dec. 17 on the S.S. Reliance of the Hamburg-American line and spent the holidays sailing the Caribbean sea. (Photo By The Denver Post via Getty Images)”

Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate an actual marriage record for Joseph and Bertha or even a newspaper article, despite a search done by the Denver Public Library of issues of the Denver Post for that time period. From the caption, it appears that they were married in Denver shortly before departing on December 17, 1932, for their honeymoon cruise to the West Indies. It also appears that Joe was no longer working for the Denver Post, as the caption described him as someone who “[f]or many years… was a photographer” for the Post. (Emphasis added.)

Joe was 53 in December, 1932, when he married Bertha. She was 36. Bertha was born in Chicago on August 11, 1896, to David Courlander and Tillie Oppenheim. Her father was a dry goods jobber in 1900.9 In 1910, Bertha and her parents and siblings were living in Indianapolis where her father was now a woolens merchant.10 Then in 1920 Bertha was a patient in the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives in Denver. She was 24 and listed her occupation as a stenographer for a lawyer. Bertha was also, however, included in the enumeration of her parents’ household in Detroit in 1920, where she was listed without an occupation. Since both enumerations are dated in January 1920, I am not sure how to reconcile this, but my guess is that her parents included her because they still considered her residence to be with them even if she was a hospital patient elsewhere.11

But Bertha Courlander stayed in Denver. She is listed in the 1922 Denver directory as residing at 1356 Pearl Street, in 1924 at 1440 Washington Street, and in 1928, 1929, and 1930, at the Hotel Cosmopolitan, the same hotel where Joe Langer resided.12 It was probably there that Joe and Bertha met. In 1933 they are listed together in the Denver directory as living at 2737 East 13th Avenue in Denver, and Joe was working as an agent for a steamship company. They later moved to 3535 East 17th Avenue in Denver.13

Sadly, their marriage did not last very long because Joe’s life was cut short on August 29, 1934, when he died from complications after a minor operation. He was 54 years old. The obituary published by his former employer, The Denver Post, filled in some of the remaining gaps in the story of Joseph Langer:

“Death Takes Former Post Photographer,” The Denver Post, August 30, 1934, p. 9

Announcement that “Joe” Langer is dead will be received with sincere regret and sorrow by thousands who knew him during his activities as a newspaper photographer. Until he retired to become a world traveler some eight years ago [1926] he was always at the front with his camera in every important story calling for picturization. No day was too long, no task too difficult to curb his enthusiasm or turn his ambition to be the “unscooped photographer.” The great and humble and all in between were to him “interesting subjects: and his files were a clear pictorial history of the times. ….After the death of his mother in 1926 he decided to see something of the world.
He took a world cruise, carrying the faithful camera along, and on his return headlined many club programs with moving pictures and oral descriptions of places he had visited in far lands.

Joe Langer certainly left his mark on the paper and the city of Denver.

Neither Joseph nor Lester Langer had any children, and thus there are no descendants for them or for their parents, Amelia Mansbach and Henry Langer. The two brothers both had such full and interesting careers in photography, one living in Denver all his life, the other living at times in Hollywood, Kansas City, and finally the small town of Ridgely, Tennessee. I am so glad I was able to learn so much about them and keep the facts of their lives from disappearing into oblivion.








  1. Publication Title: Denver, Colorado, City Directory, 1931, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  2. Lester Langer, 1930 US census, Census Place: Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0018; FHL microfilm: 2340928. 1930 United States Federal Census. 
  3. Lester Langer, 1940 US census, Census Place: Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri; Roll: m-t0627-02165; Page: 81A; Enumeration District: 116-13, 1940 United States Federal Census. 
  4. MEMORIAL ID 149610799, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current. 
  5.  “Death Takes Former Post Photographer,” The Denver Post, August 30, 1934, p. 9 
  6.  The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at San Pedro/Wilmington/Los Angeles, California;NAI Number: 4486355; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85. NARA Roll Number: 021, California, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1959 
  7. Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4706; Line: 1; Page Number: 193. Ship or Roll Number: Roll 4706, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists 
  8. Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4805; Line: 19; Page Number: 14. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  9. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, SSN: 573669492. Courlander household, 1900 census, Census Place: Chicago Ward 9, Cook, Illinois; Page: 10; Enumeration District: 0221; FHL microfilm: 1240253, 1900 United States Federal Census 
  10. Courlander household, 1910 US census, Census Place: Indianapolis Ward 3, Marion, Indiana; Roll: T624_367; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0062; FHL microfilm: 1374380, 1910 United States Federal Census 
  11. Bertha Courlander 1920 US census, Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: T625_162; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 244, 1920 United States Federal Census. Courlander household, 1920 US census, Census Place: Detroit Ward 14, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_813; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 428, 1920 United States Federal Census 
  12. Denver City Directories, 1922, 1924, 1928, 1929, 1930, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  13. Denver City Directories, 1933, 1934, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 

JM Cohen and Family: The Pioneering Spirit Lives On

The third child of Moses, Sr., and Adeline Cohen was Jacob M. Cohen, known as JM.  He was the one who had led many other members of the family at least temporarily to Sioux City, Iowa, where he was one of the leaders of the new and growing Jewish community and a pawnbroker and then became involved in the real estate business. He and his wife Belle Lehman Cohen had lost one child, Seba Maude, as a young child, and presumably a son Arthur, who just seemed to disappear, but I assume had died very young.

JM and Belle and their younger daughter Ruth had left Sioux City sometime before 1910 after their older daughter Fannie Sybil had moved to Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband Sigmund Stern.   Sybil, as she was known, had graduated from Wellesley College in 1901.  She and Sigmund had a daughter Judith born December 25, 1905 and a son Richard, born September 26, 1913.  Ruth, Sybil’s younger sister, had attended Smith College.  Ruth married Henry Stern, her brother-in-law Sigmund Stern’s younger brother, on January 30, 1911, when she was 27.

Ruth Cohen marriage license-page-001 Ruth Cohen marriage license-page-002

Sigmund Stern and his brothers Morris and Henry were very successful businessmen.  As described earlier, the three Stern brothers had originally settled in Sioux City after emigrating from Germany, and presumably that is where Sybil met Sigmund and Ruth met Henry.  The Stern brothers were smart investors, and in 1917 they founded an investment banking company that still exists today, now called Stern Brothers Valuation Advisers.  Here is what the company website has to say about the history of the firm and the Stern brothers who founded it:

“Our company traces its roots to the immigration of Morris, Henry and Sigmund Stern to the United States from Germany at the end of the 19th century.  The brothers had a vision for their lives that included the desire to succeed in business and create a better life for their families.  Morris and Sigmund settled in Sioux City, Iowa and went to work at a local department store.  They were ambitious and hoped to start their own business as soon as possible.  The brothers were able to raise enough money to buy inexpensive plots of land which they divided into small parcels and sold to farmers.  By 1917, they had accumulated approximately $300,000 from their land sales.  This became the seed money to found their investment banking firm – Stern Brothers & Co.”

Although on the 1910 census JM said he was retired, he listed his occupation as “investments” on the 1919 city directory for Kansas City.  On the 1920 census, his occupation was real estate agent.  Perhaps he was involved in his sons-in-law’s business.

JM’s wife Belle died on September 17, 1923, and JM died just six months later on March 28, 1924. The informant on JM’s death certificate was his son-in-law Sigmund Stern, who did not know either of JM’s parents’ names, but did know that his father had been born in England.

Belle Lehman Cohen death certificate

Belle Lehman Cohen death certificate

JM Cohen death certificate

JM Cohen death certificate

Both Belle and JM were buried back in Sioux City, Iowa, at Mt. Sinai cemetery, the cemetery they had worked to create only forty years earlier and where their daughter Seba Maude was also buried.

Belle Lehman Cohen headstone jacob M Cohen headstone

Unfortunately, the marriage between Ruth Cohen and Henry Stern was not successful, and by 1920 Henry listed his marital status as single on the census. He never remarried and was living with his brother Morris, who apparently never married, on the 1930 and 1940 census reports.  Although I could find Henry on these census reports, I could not find Ruth at all after the 1911 marriage record, whether I searched for her as Ruth Cohen or Ruth Stern.  I searched for all Ruths born in Iowa within a decade of her birth year and could not find a likely candidate on any census, nor could I find another marriage record or a death record or an obituary.  Like her brother Arthur, she just seemed to have disappeared.

Then by pure luck, while searching for information about one of Sybil’s descendants, I stumbled upon a news article about the will of Sigmund Stern in which his specific bequests to his family members were listed, including one to a Ruth Shaw of Hollywood, California, described as his sister-in-law.  I assumed that this was Ruth, Sybil’s sister, and started to search for her as Ruth Shaw in California.

At first I thought I had found her with her second husband, a man named Tracy N. Shaw who lived in Caspar, Wyoming, and then moved to California.  But after looking more closely at the records, it was clear that this was not my Ruth Shaw—wrong middle initial, wrong age, and wrong birth places for her parents.  I still have not found any records for the correct Ruth Shaw, except for two.  One was an entry in the California death index for Ruth J. Shaw, born June 8, 1883 (Ruth’s birthdate) in Iowa, died October 3, 1970, in Los Angeles.

Screenshot (11)


I asked for help on the Tracing the Tribe Facebook group about how to obtain a copy of the death certificate, and one very generous member volunteered to go to the local county clerk’s office in Norwalk, California, to look at the certificate.  She reported back to me the following information:

“Ruth Josephine Shaw born Jun 8, 1883, Iowa died Oct 3, 1970 8:30am usual residence & place of death: 3846 Aloha, LA Yrs. in CA & LA co: 25 yrs. housewife, 50 yrs., own home widow – no spouse name given father: J.M. Cohen, born Washington DC mother: Arabelle Lehman, Iowa name & address of informant: Richard Jay Stern 3600 Bellview Kansas City MO cremated: 10-7-1970 Chapel of Pines Funeral director: Pierce Bros., Hollywood cause of death: cerebral vascular accident – 10 days general athereosclerosis – 15 yrs.”

This is obviously the correct Ruth Shaw, but unfortunately Richard Stern, Ruth’s nephew, did not know Ruth’s second husband’s name.

I also found an entry in the 1940 census for a Ruth Shaw, born in Iowa, 57 years old (so the right age), divorced, living in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, without an occupation and with income from “another source.”  I have to believe that this is the right Ruth Shaw also.  The census indicated that she was living in New York City in 1935.  I’ve searched for a Ruth Shaw who fits these criteria in New York City, but have not found any records or references.

Ruth Shaw 1940 census

Ruth Shaw 1940 census

I have since also been fortunate to be in touch with a descendant of JM and Belle Cohen,  and she told me that Ruth had once written for Cosmopolitan Magazine before moving out to California.  She thought that Ruth’s second husband was named Brian Shaw, so I will continue looking for more information to fill in these gaps.

As for Ruth’s older sister Sybil, she and Sigmund were much easier to track.  They had a long marriage and seemed to have a very successful life.  They sent their children to elite private colleges, Judith to Wellesley College and Richard to Yale, where he was Phi Beta Kappa.  Both of their children returned to Kansas City after college.  Judith married Jules Coulter Rosenberger, Jr., on May 11, 1928, shortly after graduating from Wellesley, and they traveled to Europe in June for what I assume was a honeymoon trip.  Jules, like his brother-in-law Richard, was a graduate of Yale, class of 1926.  He then went on to Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1929.

Jules was the son and only child of an important leader in the Kansas City legal and business community, Jules C. Rosenberger, Sr.  According to one source, his father was one of the “men who made Kansas City.”  Another source had this to say about Judith Stern’s father-in-law: “Jules C. Rosenberger is one of the leading and most successful members of the Kansas City bar.”  Carrie Westlake Whitney, Kansas City, Missouri: Its History and Its People 1808-1908, Volume 2 (Chicago; The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1908), pp. 603-604.

Despite the fact that Judith was the daughter of a very wealthy banker and Jules the son of a very successful lawyer, for a long time I could not find one newspaper article, one record, one reference anywhere that revealed what happened to them after their marriage.  As a last act of desperation, I decided to enter “Jules Rosenberger Judith Wellesley Yale” into Google to see what came up, expecting nothing relevant.  But I lucked out—the first search result was for a Yale alumni publication reporting on the deaths of university graduates in the years 1943-1944.  Sadly, Jules was one of those alumni; he died on March 6, 1944, of a heart attack.

From the Yale Bulletin Obituary Record 1943-1944

From the Yale Bulletin Obituary Record 1943-1944

He was listed as Jules Coulter Randal, however, not as Jules Rosenberger.  The only reason Google picked this document up at all in its search was the fact that the obituary provided his parents’ names, and thus Rosenberger was included in the text.  So now I knew why I had not been able to find Judith and Jules—they had changed their surname to Randal.  Using the facts in the obituary and the name Randal instead of Rosenberger, I was then able to learn a lot more about Jules, Judith and their family.

After Jules graduated from Harvard Law, Jules and Judith moved to Buffalo, where Jules worked with a law firm then known as Donovan, Raichle, and Randal.  I found it interesting that Jules chose Buffalo as a place to live and practice law.  Both he and Judith were from Kansas City and from very successful families.  Maybe they did not want to live in the shadow of their families but instead wanted to strike out on their own.

By 1942, however, Jules and Judith and their two children had left Buffalo and moved to New York City, where Jules joined the Wall Street law firm, Guggenheimer and Untermeyer.  Within two years after moving from Buffalo, he died of a heart attack.  He was only forty years old and left behind two young children and his 38-year old widow Judith.  He was buried back in Kansas City.

Judith and the children continued, however, to live in New York City.  In 1949 she married Nicolai Berezowsky, the renowned Russian born composer and violinust.  Together they wrote an opera for children based on the character and story of Babar the Elephant.


Unfortunately, Nicolai died four years after they married in 1953 when he was only 53 years old.  In an article in the Kansas City Star on February 5, 1959, p. 16, Judith talked about her marriage to Berezowsky on the occasion of a performance of his Fourth Symphony in her hometown.  She said that they had met through a mutual friend in 1947 and married two years later.  She said, “The four years that followed, before his death, were extremely interesting years for me.  I wasn’t a musician at all, but I soon learned about composers and their music.”  The Babar opera was Berezowsky’s last musical work.

Twice Judith had lost a husband to a too-early death.  Somehow she soldiered on and  became very involved in society and charitable activities.  I was able to find several articles naming her as the organizer of charitable events, including these two from the New York Times.

Judith Stern Randal New York Times, April 8, 1962

Judith Stern Randal
New York Times, April 8, 1962

Judith Stern Randal New York Times March 21, 1970

Judith Stern Randal New York Times March 21, 1970

In 1986, she established the Judith S. Randal Foundation to provide funding to educational, arts, and environmental activities.  The Foundation continues to exist and to provide funding to various organizations today.

Judith lived a good long life after her two husbands died.  She died in New York City on May 27, 2001, when she was 95 years old.  She was survived by her two children.

Judith’s brother, Richard, was even easier to track. After graduating from Yale, he received an M.B.A from Harvard and then returned to Kansas City.  In 1940 when he was 27, he was living with his parents, Sybil and Sigmund, and like his father, he was working as an investment broker at the family business, Stern Brothers.

Sigmund Stern died December 31, 1955, from a heart attack; he was 77 years old.  His wife, Sybil Cohen Stern, died five years later on November 7, 1961, her 82nd birthday.  She died of kidney disease.  Richard was the informant on both his father’s and his mother’s death certificates.

Sigmund Stern death certificate 1955-page-001 Sybil Cohen death certificate-page-001

After his father died in 1955, Richard became president of the Stern Brothers investment banking firm.  He served as President and CEO from 1956 until 1986.   According to the company website:

“Richard J. Stern, son of Sigmund, was instrumental in building a company that became the eighth largest regional investment bank in the United States with total capital exceeding $60,000,000.  Stern Brothers has provided financing and financial services to institutions that gave Kansas City its identity.  Individual security offerings the firm helped launch reads like a who’s who of Kansas City business history: Russell Stover Candies; Frank Paxton Lumber; the Employers Reinsurance Corporation; Rival Manufacturing; Cook Paint & Varnish Co.; and Gas Service Co.  As time passed Richard transitioned the firm ultimately to its employees, which led to the creation of Stern Brothers Valuation Advisors.”

Richard J. Stern died like his father did on New Year’s Eve.  He died December 31, 2001, just six months after his sister Judith.  As far as I can tell, he never married or had children.   According to the company website, “Richard was very supportive of the Kansas City Art Institute, the Kansas City Symphony and the Lyric Opera.  So upon his death on December 31, 2001, a significant portion of his net worth was placed in the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts.  The Foundation has total assets exceeding $40,000,000, which are used to support the Arts.”  If you Google Richard J. Stern and Kansas City, you will find a long list of arts institutions that are receiving funds from this foundation.

The story of JM Cohen and Belle is quite an extraordinary one.  As a young couple, they struck out on their own, moving to Iowa. They lost one and probably two young children.  JM and Belle then relocated to Kansas City, where both their daughters married Stern brothers, who were successful investment bankers. Their two grandchildren, Judith and Richard Stern, also lived long and productive lives.  Although Judith was widowed twice by the premature deaths of both her first and second husband, she not only survived—she seems to have led a good and active life and to have raised two children on her own in New York City. Richard took over his father and uncles’ business and ran it successfully for many years.  Both Judith and Richard created foundations to support the arts and other causes.  Obviously their grandparents’ independent spirit and community-mindedness was passed on to them both.

This was a family of people who were challenging to research because of the name changes and multiple marriages, but it made all the discoveries that much more exciting and surprising.  No wonder I am never bored when doing genealogy research.