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St. Louis comedian leaves
$75,000 gift for Barkley House

Elinor Ohrn, who was known for playing her bugle at the annual St. Louis gridiron dinner, donated $75,000 to the MU College of Veterinary Medicine’s Barkley House. Barkley House’s mission is to provide temporary lodging for families whose pets are undergoing medical treatment at the College’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
 
Ohrn talks with comedian George Carlin. In the 1960s, Orhn wrote for several comedians, including Garry Moore and Phyllis Diller.

As a nationally known comedy and advertising copywriter, Elinor Ohrn rubbed elbows with the likes of Phyllis Diller and George Carlin. But of all the celebrities she met, she was most excited to recall the times she met 9Lives mascot Morris the Cat and a dog that starred in Broadway’s “Annie.”

Ohrn, an animal lover who passed away in July, left a $75,000 donation to the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine’s Barkley House. Barkley House’s mission is to provide temporary lodging for families whose pets are undergoing medical treatment at the College’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. It will allow pets to stay with their owners in a homelike setting, lessening anxiety for both the animals and their owners and helping to speed recovery.

In the 1960s, Ohrn wrote for comedians Garry Moore and Phyllis Diller and created a series of Budweiser commercials featuring Frank Sinatra and Ed McMahon. She was a writer and script chairwoman for the Women’s Advertising Club of St. Louis gridiron dinner, an annual roast where she parodied world events, and was named the 1978 Advertising Federation of St. Louis Woman of the Year.

“She did things as a single woman that people just didn’t do back then,” said Dr. Carolyn Henry, Ohrn’s niece and a veterinary oncologist at the College. “She had a sense of adventure, she was incredibly intelligent, and she had a sense of humor that would just light up a room.”

Ohrn worked at Ralston Purina Company for more than 13 years. There she edited the Purina Kennel News, a magazine for dog owners. When Ralston Purina bought the St. Louis Arena and the St. Louis Blues in 1977, she came up with the arena’s new name — the Checkerdome, after the company’s black-and-white logo. She retired from the company in 1989.

Although Ohrn’s work schedule and frequent travels prevented her from having pets as an adult, nearly all of her childhood photos showed her with a pet, Henry said.

“I think she understood that human-animal bond,” she said. “In her later years, she would really respond when they would bring animals in to the various nursing facilities she was in. That would always brighten up her day.”

Henry said Ohrn liked the idea of Barkley House because it hadn’t been tried before and made a lot of sense.

“She liked that it was innovative,” she said. “She was an incredibly creative person, and she liked new ideas. She liked thinking outside the box.”

An added bonus, Henry said, was that Ohrn’s Barkley House gift would support animals here in Missouri.

“She was definitely a Missouri girl,” she said. “She had many opportunities to go elsewhere in her life and her career and always chose to stay in St. Louis.”

Henry originally conceived the Barkley House concept. The facility was named after a Great Pyrenees named Barkley whose owner drove him daily from the Kansas City area to the veterinary hospital for radiation treatments. The VMTH has partnered with Stoney Creek Inn, using a portion of donated funds to create two pet-friendly hotel rooms that have been serving as the Barkley Suites.

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Last Update: October 7, 2013