My Dad at 100.

My father, Paul Strum, shown here in a photo with my mother at my bar mitzvah in 1965, would have been 100 years old on July 25, 2021. He was 44 in this photo and just 46 when he died in December 1967. He has now been gone more than 53 years, longer than he lived. On December 18, 1967 he had a heart attack and died within an hour. At the time I was 15, my younger sister, Laurie, was 12, my older sister, Barbara (who passed away in 2016) was turning 18, and my mom was 44.

The world my dad left in 1967 is nothing like today’s. In 1967:

1. Lyndon Johnson was President

2. Mickey Mantle was still paying for the Yankees

3. The Beatles were still a band (They were Ok, but they were no Dave Clark Five)

4. Most people did not have color TV. We had a big black & white TV in Mediterranean cabinetry. 3 Networks—channels 2, 4, 7 in NY–3 independent channels–5,9,11–and Channel 13, PBS.

5. There were no cell phones, PCs, internet.

My dad was a good man. He was born in 1921, grew up in New York City and his family was poor. My grandfather sold vegetables during the Depression to make a really modest living. My dad went into the Army during World War II, but was not deployed overseas. He served stateside down south and was a cook. His friend, Abe Silpe, introduced him to his sister, Pauline, and they married after the war in 1946.

During the war my dad was diagnosed as a type 1, insulin dependent, diabetic. Diabetes is a serious widespread ailment today, but more treatable now. But it was clearly an ailment that dramatically reduced your life expectancy years ago. I remember my dad refrigerating his insulin and taking a shot each morning with an automatic syringe. As a child I had hoped that I would not become a diabetic (Alas I am a type 2 diabetic, though well controlled).

In retrospect, where we are all wise, I more clearly understand that during his life my dad was not well. While he was only 46 when he died, his eyesight was already deteriorating and circulation was poor. But he worked hard and was a good provider for our family. He had gotten his Bachelor’s degree through the GI bill and went to school at nights for 8 years. He graduated from Rutgers-Newark in 1956 when he was 34, worked for the government and with his accounting degree, became an auditor for the IRS.

We are all human and have pain in our lives. No one is spared, and we are all a product of the events of our lives. Though I did not feel the weight of the world on my shoulders after he died, I did feel more responsible for my own life and success (or failure). With the love and support of my mother (who passed away in 1996 at age 72) and my sisters, we were all OK. We remained in our home in Springfield, NJ and I graduated from high school in 1970. I went to Rutgers in New Brunswick, and my college education was thankfully paid for by the Veterans Administration. Since my dad was diagnosed with diabetes while in the service, the VA provided $2000 annually for the college education for each of his children. The cost of Rutgers at the time was $2000 annually–full-up for tuition, room and board. It was an easy choice (in truth my only one—private school was not realistic). After Rutgers, I did go to NYU to get an MBA, financed in part by a scholarship from United Airlines, some money from my mom, and money I made substitute teaching in 3 junior highs in Newark, NJ (where they paid $37/day, twice as much as the surrounding suburban towns).

As a result of my dad’s premature passing, I also feel far more compassion and I identify with anyone whose parent died while they were young. I understand the pain they suffered, and probably still do. I know that they too are also, to some extent, a product of the premature passing of their parent. I’m sad that he never met my wife Beth or our children, Carolyn and Carl.

I am an independent sort by nature, but losing a parent made me feel more so. I never really sought a “safety net” in life, and never had one. I never really thought about it. I was OK with depending on myself–always was and always have been. That doesn’t imply I am “self-made” in any way. No one is. My mother surely helped me in any way should could, but as I entered the working world, with the support of my late wife Beth, I understood it was up to me. I had mentors during my career, and friends and family who help me even to this day. While I have been a business leader earlier in my career and proud of my business accomplishments, I am very comfortable with a nomadic life of an independent consultant for the past 22 years. More importantly, I am proud of the role I have played in my family as husband, dad, and brother. I am far from perfect, yet I think I’ve done ok in many of the facets of my life. I am a work in process, as we are.

My dad was soft spoken, much more so than I am. When he spoke, you listened. He was wise and hard working. He was a good dad, son, brother, and husband. I wish I had a longer relationship with him. I was too young and self-absorbed, as most teens are, when he passed away. I wish I had an adult relationship with my father. I had always felt it unfair that he died so young, but over time have become at peace with the reality that he would have been gone by now regardless.

I still think of him often but he doesn’t age in my head. He looks like a man in his mid-40s in my mind, his age when he passed away. My only advice to those who have aging parents is to appreciate them while they are here. They are human and surely made mistakes as have we all. If your relationship with your parent(s) are strained, try to repair it, and appreciate the sacrifices they made for you, because parents are not forever. I know I appreciate my mom and dad more than ever.

More Strumings


  1. James Kennedy says:

    Zichranom livrachah – may his memory always be as a blessing for you. What a moving and beautiful tribute. I hope t was cathartic and felt good for you to make his love and hard work publicly known to we the readers. My dad was 100 in 2020, but he loved to be 88. The closest I can come to your hurt was losing all four of my grandparents in a ten month stretch when I was 14/15. I am a CPA today largely because my one grandfather was the first of three generations of them in my family, me being the 3rd and likely last. Though our dads passed at different ages, its been 13 years and I wish he could see how successfully my business is, and even more how wonderful our daughter has evolved, now 17 but just 4 when he passed. This is really really good stuff Lonny. I am 6 years your junior, but my sister is your age, and I was exposed to and forced to learn lyrics of the Dave Calrk 5 – and Hermans Hermits and Paul Revere and the Raiders!!! Have a great day. ou hit your target with e. Shanah tovah to you and yours.
    Respectfully, Jim

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Thanks Jim. Glad your sister forced you to learn those lyrics. You are no doubt a more well rounded person with that knowledge. “I’m Henry the 8th I am. Henry the 8th I am I am. I got married to the widow next door. She’s been married 7 times before….”

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