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Obituary of Geoffrey K. Schlafly Sr.: Home builder, livestock farmer, entrepreneur

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 8, 2011 - Geoffrey Schlafly, who moved easily, often and successfully between the two worlds of building and rehabbing urban homes and raising livestock, died Dec. 5 after he had a heart attack. He was 54 and had lived in Creve Coeur.

"He was great with his hands and loved building and repairing things," said his brother Joseph. "And he was always an entrepreneur."

Mr. Schlafly, who had a history of heart problems, had been hospitalized at SSM St. Mary's Health Center for a surgical procedure when he suffered a fatal heart attack, his brother said.

The Entrepreneur

Geoffrey Kimball Schlafly Sr. was born in St. Louis on June 12, 1957, the fourth of Julia Bates Kimball Schlafly and Edward F. Schlafly's six children. He graduated from Horton Watkins High School in Ladue in 1975.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1979, Mr. Schlafly embarked upon two distinct careers: cattle farming and his own construction business.

He was the adventuresome one among the Schlaflys.

"He took some risks, starting a business without any real backing, buying houses for rehabbing," said Stephen J. Willman, Mr. Schlafly's friend since their junior high days at St. Louis Priory School.

He founded and was president of Schlafly Construction Co., which specializes in building and rehabbing homes. When it began, the company's work was primarily in the older, neighboring suburbs that ring St. Louis and in the city.

His home transformations included one of the city's oldest, most prestigious homes, a mansion on Portland Place in the Central West End. Over time, the work moved westward to include Creve Coeur, Ladue and other suburban communities in the central corridor.

The Cattleman

The Clear Creek Livestock Farm in Washington County, Mo., has been in the Schlafly family since the late 1800s when it was part of the timber holdings of the Potosi Tie & Lumber Co., run by Mr. Schlafly's father.

Mr. Schlafly spent at least half his weekends, more in the summertime, working on the family's 400-acre livestock farm in the foothills of the Ozark National Forest, on the eastern edge of Mark Twain State Park.

The farm has full-time caretakers, but he would drive an hour and a half regularly to check on the herd of 50-75 cows and calves, and the farm's only crop, grasses destined to become hay for the livestock's feed. When the calves tip the scales between 600 and 700 pounds, they head to market.

"It's called a 'cow-calf' operation and Geoff was close to the day-to-day workings," Joseph Schlafly said. "He would also involve himself in the never-ending maintenance and upkeep.

"We all pitched in, but he was by far the leader."

Clear Creek is a working farm that the family has also used for recreation for almost a century. It was the perfect place for some of Mr. Schlafly's favorite activities: horseback riding and racket sports.

The Legacy

Mr. Schlafly was named for his maternal grandfather, Geoffrey Kimball, who moved to St. Louis from New York in the early part of the 20th century to run a family railroad that transported coal from southern Illinois and other parts of the Mississippi Valley to St. Louis.

He was proud, his family said, to be part of a clan that can trace its St. Louis roots back to one of the founders and builders of the city. His mother was a direct descendant of the Chouteau family.

"The pioneer spirit is how St. Louis came to be when that crazy Frenchman (Rene Auguste Chouteau) came up the (Mississippi) river in 1764," Joseph Schlafly said.

"Geoff had a prairie frontier philosophy of life; it's why he enjoyed the country so much. No one had a higher dose of pioneering spirit."

Mr. Schlafly was a businessman and a farmer, but neither was his priority.

"His legacy is his great love for his family, especially his great love for his children, not being a captain of industry," Willman said. "He would sacrifice anything for them."

Mr. Schlafly was preceded in death by his parents.

Survivors include two sons, Geoffrey Kimball Schlafly Jr., of St. Louis, and John O'Fallon Schlafly, a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia; a daughter, Emilie Chouteau Schlafly, a student at the University of Oregon-Eugene, and his former wife, Mary O'Fallon Schlafly, of St. Louis.

Mr. Schlafly is also survived by four brothers, J. Joseph (Annie) Schlafly, Dr. Edward F. (Christy) Schlafly Jr., Peter K. (Mary) Schlafly, all of St. Louis, and Maffitt Kimball (Michelle) Schlafly of New Orleans, and a sister, Sarah Schlafly (Tom) Cohn of St. Louis.

A memorial service will be at 10 a.m., Dec. 16, at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 110 North Warson Rd.

Gifts in Mr. Schlafly's memory may be sent to Habitat for Humanity, 3763 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, Mo. 63108-3311, www.habitatstl.org.

Joseph Schlafly is a member of the Beacon's board.

Gloria Ross is the head of Okara Communications and the storywriter for AfterWords, an obituary-writing and production service. 

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