The late Johnny Londoff Sr. was named this year’s recipient of the Robert O. Kortkamp Humanitarian Award.
The award, given by the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), was presented to Londoff’s son, John Londoff Jr., in a ceremony March 20 at Christy’s Banquet Center in St. Louis.
About 100 labor and community leaders turned out for the event.
Londoff is the second recipient of the annual award. The first award was presented posthumously to Kortkamp himself in recognition of the life and work of the late labor leader.
Londoff, a businessman for 64 years, founded Johnny Londoff Chevrolet in Florissant, and was one of the area’s most respected auto dealers and a dedicated volunteer who raised millions of dollars for the Variety Club and other children's charities.
In 1983, Time magazine named him one of the nation’s top auto dealers.
When Londoff’s daughter Jacqueline was born with Down syndrome in 1960, it sparked a lifelong mission to help children like her reach their full potential.
In 1979 Londoff was honored as Humanitarian of the Year by the St. Louis Globe Democrat.
“My dad was one of the most selfless men that I’ve ever met,” Londoff Jr. said. “From early on, I learned the importance of giving and helping people in need. He didn’t preach. He always led by example. We watched him work tirelessly to better the lives of those less fortunate.”
In 1981, Londoff became chairman of the Variety Club Telethon here. He got celebrities like Sammy Davis Jr. to participate and movers and shakers to contribute.
Londoff didn't know August Busch III, his son recalled, but once went to the beer baron's office, waited until Busch saw him, and walked out with a check for $100,000.
“It was hard saying no to Johnny Londoff Sr. when his tagline would be ‘It’s not for me. It’s for the children,’ ” his son said.
‘A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT’
Among his charitable efforts, Londoff helped raise millions of dollars for a variety of preventative care and community health outreach programs at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, including the establishment of a neurological care and research center that today bears he and his wife Sylvia’s names.
St. Louis Children's Hospital dedicated the John and Sylvia Londoff Rehabilitation Center in 1996 and in 2001 awarded The Gold Heart Award to Mr. and Mrs. Londoff.
“Johnny made a significant impact on the lives of countless children in our community,” Jan Rogers, manager of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation said. “His support at St. Louis Children’s Hospital helped continue the hospital’s now 134-year tradition of providing care for every child in need, regardless of that family’s ability to pay.”
Londoff died in 2010 at the age of 85.
“We are all responsible for the well-being of each other,” Earline Jones, president of the ARA Education Fund said in presenting the award. “However, every now and then a rare individual will emerge becoming the champion that makes sustained changes, vastly improving the lives of those among us who cannot protect themselves. I truly believe Mr. Londoff was that champion. His fundraising ability on behalf of special needs children was simply phenomenal. He developed resources and programs that continue to this day helping special needs children lead happy, productive lives.”
In a telling bit of serendipity, Jones said St. Louis Children’s Hospital was a tribute to the commitments made by both Londoff and Kortkamp. While Londoff raised millions of dollars for the hospital, Kortkamp served on the hospital’s board of directors.
Kortkamp retired as secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Labor Council, AFL-CIO in 1995 and served as a volunteer within the Greater St. Louis Labor Council. He also served as an executive board member and co-chairman of the Advance Campaign of the United Way of Greater St. Louis and served on the boards of the Mary Ryder Home, Catholic Charities of St. Louis, the Blue Cross Corporate Assembly, the St. Louis Bi-State Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Epilepsy Foundation of St. Louis.
Kortkamp founded the Missouri ARA and in 2010 and provided the leadership to start the Education Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on senior issues.
“While both of these extraordinary men are no longer with us, their legacies remain alive and will be cherished forever here in St. Louis,” Jones said.