Friday, January 18, 2008



Historic Preservationist
Respected Businessman
Civic Booster & St. Charles Ambassador
A True Gentleman

St. Charles lost a true gentleman and treasure on January 8th. John Dengler left us after enjoying 82 years on this earth and 35 years as the St. Charles Ambassador.

Dengler owned and operated the John Dengler Tobacconist on South Main Street. His father started the shop in 1917 in downtown St. Louis. John moved his business to St. Charles in 1972. It is believed to be the oldest continuous tobacco shop west of the Mississippi. In 1980 he moved his family to St. Charles.

John planned to study law. While still in high school at Beaumont High School, he began taking classes in pre law at Washington University. In 1943, at the age of 18, war interrupted his studies and he joined the military, serving in France and Germany with the U.S. Army’s 70th Trailblazer Division. His father died while he was away and his aunt took over running the family business.

When he returned home in 1945 his aunt and mother wanted him to become a lawyer. But instead he went to work and took retailing classes at night. He finished in 1952, when he received a certificate in retailing from University College. It was in College where he met his wife Trudy who preceded him in death. They were married August 18, 1951.

John was director of the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America from 1961-80 and in 1962 was honored with the first presentation of the Pipe and Tobacco Council’s prestigious Quality Retailer Award.

When he opened his shop in St. Charles it was one of only 17 shops on South Main Street. John served on many boards and commissions that included the South Main Preservation Society and the historical society. John played an important part in the revitalization of the St. Charles Downtown Historic District.

John chaired the 175th Anniversary Commemorations of the Louisiana Purchase Transfer Ceremonies and the Lewis and Clark Rendezvous, which is in its 29th year. John served on the Landmarks Preservation Board and served as chairman of the Civil War Living History Days. In 1992, John founded the all-youth Lewis and Clark Fife and Drum Corps. He also served as chairman of the St. Charles Christmas Traditions for seven years. John was Chairman of the Special Business District Board and received a William T. Kemper Foundation Community Service Award. John served on the board of the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles and of the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Nature Center.

John Dengler received a Lifetime Distinguished Service Award in 1994 from the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce. He also received Missouri’s first and only Missouri Heritage Award in 1995.

John was a Commander in the Ivanhoe Commandery #8 Knights of Templar and was commissioned as a Colonel in the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.

John also served as President and Chair of the Board of Retail Tobacco Dealers of America, Secretary of the Tobacconist Association of America, columnist for the Tobacco Leaf and President of the St. Louis Tobacco Table.

In addition, John Dengler was the First recipient Quality Retailer Award from the Pipe & Tobacco Council of the U.S., Guardsman Award from the Army and Air Force for Patriotic Service, Kapnismologists Extraordinaire Award of Merit from the St. Charles Pipe Smokers Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars 17th Annual Americanism Awards and the City of St. Charles 2nd Annual Discovery Award for Leadership in Community Progress.

John is survived by one son, John L. of Springfield; two daughters, Laura Muench of St. Charles and Anne Albin of Moscow Mills; and two grandsons.

Information on John Dengler was obtained from friends of John, from his obituary and from the Summer 2004 issue of Washington University in St. Louis Magazine in an article by Terri McClain.

All photos are First Capitol News File Photos by Tony Brockmeyer.