Former Jefferson Countian George Bauer, a partner in the recently opened St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station, recalls times long ago when he would fish from the banks of the Mississippi River.

“I used to fish in the Mississippi River and catch catfish,” said Bauer, 88. “Now, I see them swimming in the aquarium from the perspective of underneath the water!”

Bauer, who graduated from De Soto High School in 1949, said he is thrilled with the aquarium, which opened to the public on Christmas Day.

He now lives in New Canaan, Conn., with his wife, Carol, and their daughter and her children.

Bauer and his wife came to St. Louis a couple of weeks before the official opening for a special tour of the facility with dignitaries from the region and state.

“We had a VIP walk-through for the aquarium (on Dec. 11),” Bauer said. “The governor (Mike Parson), lieutenant governor (Mike Kehoe), mayor of St. Louis (Lyda Krewson) and St. Louis County executive (Sam Page) – they all spoke glowingly of the project and what it will do for the city of St. Louis. My partner, Bob O’Laughlin, is running it.”

Bauer said he is impressed with the $187 million family entertainment project his group put together, which includes the aquarium, a 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel called the St. Louis Wheel and other amenities at Union Station.

“I think it’s terrific,” he said.

Bauer said the impending construction of a pro soccer stadium for the new St. Louis team coming to the MSL (Major League Soccer) will make the St. Louis downtown area even more attractive.

“The new soccer stadium will be just across the street from the aquarium and Union Station,” Bauer said. “That should be a great location and a purpose destination in the city of St. Louis. I think it will be unprecedented in the country.”

Aquarium features creatures from around the world

Bauer said the aquarium at Union Station on Market Street in St. Louis provides an entertaining and educational experience. The aquarium’s address is listed as 201 S. 18th Street.

“The 120,000-square-foot aquarium covers two stories and includes environments filled with more than a million gallons of water. Its one-of-a-kind exhibits feature more than 13,000 aquatic animals from fresh water and marine environments from around the world,” according to information provided by the St. Louis Aquarium. “The aquarium brings together state-of-the-art technology, animal care, education and conservation with the excitement of aquatic creatures.”

Bauer said the aquarium has a lot of exciting exhibits. “One of the most delightful exhibits is three river otters,” he said. “We purchased three baby river otters from Ft. Lauderdale. They have been trained to slide into a tank. People in the (St. Louis Union Station Hotel) can see them even without going into the aquarium.

“Of course, the shark tank is the most spectacular exhibit. It’s two-stories deep. You can see stingrays and sharks swimming as you walk by. They’re in the same tank.”

Bauer said another interesting creature at the aquarium is Lord Stanley, a blue lobster named in honor of the Blues winning the 2019 Stanley Cup.

Lord Stanley was discovered in a shipment of seafood at a Boston-area seafood restaurant and the restaurant’s owner graciously offered the lobster to the St. Louis Aquarium, Bauer said.

“Blue lobsters are very rare,” he said. “He was a gift from the owner of Arnold’s Lobster and Crab Bar (in Eastham, Mass.) We have him in his own tank at the aquarium.”

Bauer said those behind the project stress its educational importance.

“It will host St. Louis school classes for the study of aquatic science and creatures,” Bauer said. “We are dedicated to have every child in St. Louis come to the aquarium. If they can’t afford it, we will subsidize them.”

Bauer still active in business ventures

Bauer said he occasionally returns to the St. Louis area as part of his obligations to his college alma mater, Washington University, and to monitor business interests.

“I am on the Board of Trustees of Washington University,” he said. “I also own hotels in St. Louis.”

Bauer received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering from Washington University before embarking on a 31-year career with IBM. He served as a group director for IBM in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. After he retired from IBM, he turned his attention to investments.

He does not sound like a retired man.

“I’m 88 and going strong,” Bauer said. “I’m working 60 hours a week and love every minute of it. I’m in excellent health. I am fortunate I chose my parents well.”

Bauer was inducted into the De Soto High School Hall of Fame in 2016.