Stephen Straus’ service pays tribute to a man, a “mensch” and a family pillar


Stephen Straus, 88, was commemorated on Friday morning July 8 at the Jewish Reconstruction Congregation in Evanston, just four days after his brutal murder during the July 4 parade in Highland Park.

Etienne Straus Credit: Provided

“That person’s beauty ended in ugliness…we’re not going to try to make sense of that because it doesn’t make sense,” Rabbi Rachel Weiss said. “[But] his spirit will live as long as we live…we will never be the same again but we will carry him with us…we are not alone.

Weiss spoke to family and friends during a 75-minute service celebrating Straus and remembering his life, the audience included Governor JB Pritzker who did not speak.

Amid glowing tributes were also laughter, poetry, a song sung by his granddaughter and a call for political action to protest gun violence. The family tried to mirror Straus’ humor, such as the funeral earlier in the morning.

“When we got it down to the ground, we played the opening theme from 2001 and it was beautiful,” said his son, Peter. “He would have loved”

Peter described his father as a “true mensch”, who read “voraciously”, especially poetry, biographies of interesting people, and history. He loved the arts and recalled how his father introduced Peter and his brother to James Bond, Captain Kirk and the movie “2001 A Space Odyssey”.

Stephen Straus, a financial adviser, was sweet with a goofy sense of humor. He loved the Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks record of “The 2000 Year Old Man”, the music of Tiny Tim and a worn and scratched copy of “The Farting Contest”. Peter described his dad’s laughter as somewhat “mischievous” and shared a story told by one of his dad’s friends: every time Stephen walked through a revolving door, his signature move was to press his nose against the pane, leaving his nasal imprint.

Jonathan Straus described his father as “exceptionally sweet and kind…he loved sharing who you were and what you did. He was the consummate joke teller… fun, playful, a little eccentric with a very warm smile. He was a really sweet and genuine person, a wonderful father, grandfather and family member, a pillar of our family. Her father regularly enjoyed visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, attending Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts, and birdwatching from his leafy garden.

Straus’ brother Larry, two years younger, said his brother was “a really good guy” and that the world would be a better place if more people were like him. Straus’ daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, read “Remember Me” by Margaret Mead. The last line of the poem, “For if you still think of me, I’ll never be gone” seemed particularly fitting given Straus’ role in his family.

Towards the end of the service, one of Stephen’s grandsons, Tobias, read the poem, “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. It’s an anti-war poem, which Tobias said was appropriate since his grandfather had been shot and killed in “a political battle.”

According to Tobias, “over 220 people were killed over the 4th of July long weekend…and now the names of towns like Highland Park, Buffalo, Uvalde, Newtown are indistinguishable from one another.” He repeated the opening lines of the last stanza of McCrae’s poem as a call to action for those listening in person and virtually:

Take our quarrel with the enemy:
To you failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.

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