Former Red Wings president Fred Strauss dies

by Patti Singer,   Democrat and Chronicle    July 17, 2015

 

It didn’t matter if you were the newest intern or a seasoned veteran in the Rochester Red Wings front office. Fred Strauss greeted you the same way.

“He was a very nice guy to everybody in our office,” said general manager Dan Mason, who in 1990 was that intern. “He was appreciative of everybody’s efforts in the organization. I always took note of that, the way he showed his respect for other people in our office and the way he carried himself.”

Mr. Strauss, who died Friday on his 88th birthday, also left an indelible imprint on his community. He was president of Rochester Community Baseball from 1984-1990 and chairman of the board of from 1991-99.

Mr. Strauss was a graduate of Aquinas Institute and a veteran of World War II. After a career in banking, he retired in 1990 as regional president of Manufacturers Hanover Trust.

A proponent of services in Greece, Mr. Strauss was involved from the outset in several civic or health organizations.

He was a founding member of a committee that led to the opening of Park Ridge Hospital in 1975. He helped found the Greece Rotary and the Greece Volunteer Ambulance. He was an advocate for mental health, helping to establish the inpatient psychiatric unit at Park Ridge, and for people with disabilities.

He later was involved in the merging of Park Ridge with St. Mary’s Hospital to create Unity Health System. He helped the system develop housing options for seniors, and lived at the Village at Unity.

“Class act,” said Timothy McCormick, former president and chief executive officer of Unity Health System.

Mr. Strauss also was a commissioner of the Ridge Road Fire District and of the Greece Fire Council.

“(He) “was just a unique person, the kind that doesn’t come along often,” said William Selke, a Greece community booster and long-time Rotarian. “He was so highly respected all over Monroe County.”

Mr. Strauss was involved with the Monroe County Republican Party and ran for state assembly in 1965. But the most public role for a person described by colleagues as humble and without ego likely was his leadership of the Red Wings during tumultuous times.

Mr. Strauss joined the board of Rochester Community Baseball in late 1982 after a proxy fight won by shareholders led by Anna B. Silver. A key issue was whether aging Silver Stadium, built in 1929 as Red Wing Stadium, should be renovated or replaced.

Mr. Strauss told the Times-Union in December 1983 that he wasn’t very familiar with the previous board. He had viewed his appointment as “another nice community activity for me.”

His experience in banking and community service, along with his demeanor, proved invaluable as the Red Wings financed a $4.5 million renovation of Silver Stadium over the winter of 1986-87 that carried them for 10 seasons until they moved to Frontier Field.

“We needed a strong leader at the time, and people were able to put aside what was history and move forward,” said Naomi Silver, current Red Wings president and chief executive officer. “It was easier to move forward with someone like Fred in the picture. Everyone respected him.”

Silver was just coming onto the scene with the Red Wings when Mr. Strauss was president, and she said his support made a difference in her life.

“He believed in my ability,” she said. “A different kind of person or someone who didn’t believe that a woman could forge a career in something like baseball might have caused me to have a different role. I always appreciated that in him. He let me get involved in a way that I guess a lot of guys wouldn’t have. It was still the ’80s.”

Tom Crilly, chief financial officer for Rochester Regional Health and formerly CFO for Unity Health System, said Mr. Strauss displayed compassion and had the ability to bring people together.

“He taught me a lot of things,” Crilly said. “Integrity comes to mind. Do you what you believe is right, even when it’s tough go. He had a very businesslike way about him, but at the same time, he was a people person.”

Mr. Strauss is survived by his wife of 66 years, Marcia, and many nieces and nephews.

“We had a close connection,” said nephew Bill Wynne, whose own father died many years ago. “My uncle was like a second father.”

Wynne said he had told Mr. Strauss they should have a party on or close to his 88th birthday.

“It looks like we will,” he said.

Calling hours are scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at Arndt Funeral Home, 1118 Long Pond Road A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. John the Evangelist Church on West Ridge Road. Entombment will be at White Haven Memorial Park.