'He lives on in my heart': Family remembers 88-year-old's energy right up to his death in parade

  • Linda Straus arrives for the funeral service of her husband with family members Friday at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston. Stephen Straus was killed Monday in a mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park.

    Linda Straus arrives for the funeral service of her husband with family members Friday at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston. Stephen Straus was killed Monday in a mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

  • Stephen Straus

    Stephen Straus Courtesy of Chicago Jewish Funerals/Straus family

  • Mourners arrive for the funeral service for Stephen Straus, who was killed Monday in a mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston Friday.

    Mourners arrive for the funeral service for Stephen Straus, who was killed Monday in a mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston Friday. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

 
 
Updated 7/9/2022 4:51 PM

The abrupt and violent end to Stephen Straus' 88-year passionate pursuit of knowledge, understanding and art appreciation was mourned by family and friends Friday, four days after he lost his life in the mass shooting at his Highland Park hometown's Fourth of July parade.

"We are here this morning with brokenness," said Rabbi Rachel Weiss, of Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston. "We are here in a painful incredulity that this is the world we're living in and the time we're living in."

 

Despite his age, Straus continued to work five days a week in addition to read voraciously and regularly visit the Art Institute of Chicago, Weiss said.

Straus' 86-year-old brother Larry said there were many positive words to describe his sibling, but the first that sprang to mind was "loyalty." Having started a career as a catalog copywriter for Sears, Stephen later joined Larry doing sales for a commercial photography firm.

Stephen Straus' older son Jonathan said his father was known for his warm smile and playful personality.

"As a father, he was full of surprises. He had a strange, bizarre sense of humor that kept you on your toes," Jonathan said. "I thought he was a consummate joke teller, which is something I was never able to master."

Jonathan said his father continued to work by choice, loving the routine of taking Metra downtown.

Many remarked on his father's sweetness and charm.

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"It makes the cruelty and the horror of his death that much harder to take," Jonathan said. "I hope that somehow the country can pull itself together and end this type of violence. No one should ever have to go through that. But he lives on in my heart until the day I die."

Straus' younger son, Peter, said that as a psychologist he's only now discovering the truth of Sigmund Freud's words that the death of one's father is the most significant event in a man's life.

Peter said his father was always telling him about the latest interesting book he was reading. He instilled in others a love of intellectual entertainment and would have appreciated that his burial was accompanied by the opening theme of "2001: A Space Odyssey."

"My dad taught us the value of laughter and being downright naughty," Peter said.

Weiss thanked Gov. J.B. Pritzker for attending the funeral and told those gathered that now is the time to ask how to live in a world in which a Fourth of July parade can become a massacre and an occasion to be feared.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

She said that when writer Elie Wiesel was asked where God was during the Holocaust, he replied that the right question was: Where was humanity?

"This is the world that we live in, but it doesn't have to be," Weiss said. "Bring your own humanity. Bring it everywhere you go. ... We do this because the only way we can put the world back together is with our own two hands."

Straus is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Linda, as well as his brother, sons and grandchildren.

Memorial contributions on behalf of Straus may be made to Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation by mail or at jrctogether.org, and to the American Cancer Society at P.O. Box 6704, Hagerstown, Maryland, 21741, or cancer.org.

Also laid to rest Friday were two of the other six victims of Monday's mass shooting, 63-year-old Jacki Sundheim of Highland Park and 78-year-old Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza of Morelos, Mexico, who was visiting his family in Highland Park.

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