2019

Rex Burlison

Rex M. Burlison
Class of 1972

Rex M. Burlison is the presiding judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit in St. Louis. No stranger to high-profile cases, Judge Burlison is known for his conscientiousness, wit and generosity. His hard work, passion for justice and stellar reputation make him a role model for current Ritenour High School students.

Judge Burlison’s long, distinguished career had humble beginnings. In high school, he worked after-school jobs while keeping up with academics and being active in sports. A wide receiver, Burlison helped lead the varsity football team to win the St. Louis Suburban North Conference against McCluer High School in the fall of 1971. Friends of Burlison remember how he used humor to make classes more bearable. 

After graduating from Ritenour High School in 1972, Burlison went on to graduate cum laude from Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman State, with a major in political science and law enforcement. After moving with his wife, Rita, to Jefferson City for a year to work as an aid to then-Sen. Harry Wiggins, Burlison was accepted into St. Louis University School of Law. He and his wife made ends meet while raising their first daughter and living off Rita’s five part-time jobs along with his school loans. Rita recalls that times never felt tough, though, because together they still had fun and her husband always made her laugh.

After graduating law school, Burlison learned every facet of law at the law firm of George Sullivan in O’Fallon, Mo. He continued to practice as a private attorney for the next 20 years. Burlison went on to serve for a year as an Associate Circuit judge in St. Charles County before being hired by then-Attorney General Jay Nixon as chief counsel for the Eastern District in St. Louis for the next eight years. When Nixon became governor, he joined his team as Eastern Region director. He has been a judge in the 22nd Judicial Circuit in St. Louis since 2011, where has presided over such significant cases as State of Missouri v. Gov. Eric Greitens, the Francine Katz v. Anheuser-Busch discrimination case and the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder cases. He entered a decision finding same-sex marriage legal in Missouri in 2014. He was awarded the Judicial Excellence Award by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri in 2018.

Despite his high-demand job and long hours devoted to studying and researching law, Burlison always finds time for family, friends and community. He serves as a lector at Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard and is passionate about the needs of the homeless in the city of St. Louis. He volunteers for Motion for Kids, an organization for children who have a parent in the criminal justice system, where he plays Santa Claus for holiday events for the organization every year. He also was significantly involved in Family Advocacy and Community Training, a not-for-profit agency that assists parents of developmentally challenged children. He has provided legal counsel pro bono for families of children with special challenges.

Judge Burlison has a heart for humanity and continually uses his talents to make the world a better place. With hard work, humor and humility, he has become a leader in the St. Louis community highly deserving of a place in the Ritenour Hall of Fame.

The father of four children and grandfather of eight, Judge Burlison and his wife reside in St. Louis.

 

Mark Lacey

Mark Lacey
Class of 1980

Straightforward, hard-working, loyal and kind are all words used to describe Ritenour Hall of Fame inductee Mark Lacey.  But, if you asked the 1980 Ritenour graduate about his accomplishments, his humble demeanor would prevent him from telling you about all of the amazing accomplishments of his military and professional careers.  

Lacey is an award-winning military veteran, and operations and logistics manager. After graduating from high school, he began his highly decorated military career with the U.S. Army that spanned for several decades. His combat experience overseas includes tours of duty in the Gulf War, Panama, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.  

He has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his work in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he helped secure the area for incoming troops. He also received five Meritorious Service Medals, seven Army Commendation Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and many other military accolades.

As one of his many nomination letters noted:  “He was not seeking glory or special attention in the Army; he was doing his job and doing it with great pride.”

From 1999-2004, he has supervised and managed the logistical organization of more than 600 personnel for the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Ky.

Fourteen years ago, he joined Volpi Food, Inc. in St. Louis as the warehouse and shipping manager.  In that role, Lacey has been responsible for timely deliveries both across the country and internationally. He has been lauded by Volpi executives for helping to improve the overall culture and climate of the company by organizing activities to bring all 220 employees together.  

The president and CEO of Volpi Food, Inc. described Lacey this way:  “True heroes like Mark are those that leave their impression on the communities in which they live, live exemplary lives and do so with a positive attitude.”

The father of two children, Lacey resides in St. Ann, Mo.

 

George Meyer George W. Meyer
Class of 1934

George W. Meyer’s unique and accomplished career in aviation began shortly after he graduated from Ritenour High School in 1934. His early aptitude for building airplane models as a teenager led him to become a legend in the world of experimental, stunt and recreational aircraft. Meyer’s award-winning biplane prototype Little Toot, which first appeared in 1957, continues to inspire Experimental Aircraft builders around the world.

Meyer is remembered by friends and family as a kind and generous person who could engineer and build anything from a young age. While still in high school, he built and detailed scale airplane models for local museums. After graduation, he became a sheet metal worker and specialist before serving in the U.S. Army during WWII. His subsequent career repairing naval airplanes would take him across the country for the next 30 years, from Pensacola, Fla., to Seattle, Wash., ultimately landing him in Corpus Christi, Texas. There, he  supervised over 500 employees repairing and fabricating parts for helicopters to be used in the Vietnam War. 

When Meyer wasn’t at work fixing and building planes, he was home building display models for museums (some of which were displayed in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum) or engineering his own dream plane. One of his greatest accomplishments was Little Toot, an aerobatic biplane he designed and built himself, that would go on to win the coveted Mechanix Illustrated Award at the Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-in in Milwaukee, Wis. in 1957. Little Toot’s design was a revolution for its time and continues to be built and modified by aeronautical enthusiasts to this day.

With only a high school diploma, Meyer turned his plane-building hobby into a lucrative career, winning several competitions and drawing up and selling copies of the design plans for Little Toot. He helped launch the Experimental Amateur Built Aircraft movement, and was one of the original members of the Experimental Aircraft Association, which has since expanded to more than 220,000 members.

Meyer passed on his love of airplane building to his son, Thomas, whose beloved childhood Disney character Little Toot became the namesake for his father’s most successful endeavor. Thomas carries on his father’s legacy by restoring and building his own biplanes, most recently modifying his father’s original blueprints to create a larger, more powerful Little Toot plane, lovingly known as Big Toot.

 

Bill Wirtz Bill Wirtz
Class of 1965

Bill Wirtz had a positive impact on thousands of students and hundreds of athletes during his illustrious career as a teacher and a coach at Ritenour High School. He is known as one of the most well-respected, talented and successful coaches in the storied history of Ritenour athletics.      

Wirtz was an outstanding athlete as a student in Ritenour, excelling in track and field and being a part of the inaugural cross country team during his senior year for the Huskies. After graduating in 1965, Wirtz attended Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO), where he also had great success in the classroom and athletics. Wirtz earned a total of eight letters in cross country and track and field, served as the track and field team captain for two years, earned numerous all-conference honors and held the school’s mile record for many years.

Wirtz was a member of the 1969 track and field team that won the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) Conference and was later inducted into the SEMO’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.  His team also captured the MIAA cross country championship for three years.  

He received his bachelor’s in biology from SEMO in 1969 and also holds graduate degrees in biology and education. After teaching science for one year in Pattonville in 1969, he returned to his alma mater in 1970 to teach biology and science.  

Wirtz coached the Huskies cross country teams for 29 years while also serving as an assistant track coach (1971-1973) and head track coach (1974-1994).  During his tenure as coach, Ritenour teams were a juggernaut at the local and state levels. He led the Huskies to two state championships (1985 and 1989), two second place finishes (1977 and 1990) and two third place marks (1983 and 1991).  He also led the cross country team to a third place finish in 1975.

Overall, Wirtz coached 14 individual state champions, eight relay state champions and one individual state champion in cross country.  Six of those champions set new state record times in Missouri. Twenty-one Ritenour track athletes achieved high school All-American status through his guidance. 

Wirtz is a three-time Missouri track coach of the year (1985, 1989 and 1990) and was inducted into the Missouri Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame in 2001.  He retired from teaching and coaching in 1999.  

Wirtz demonstrated his outstanding ability to make the runners he coached to be the best they could be and accomplish their goals and is a deserving recipient for inclusion in the Ritenour Hall of Fame.

He and his wife, Jan, reside in Maryland Heights, Mo.