Look, folks, I have to go off script this week because I got some sad news that makes me the opposite of mad: my good friend and doctor since I was just a little screecher, Carl Strauss, died on Aug. 8, and I’m really sad about it.
Now I don’t need to tell you that I dubbed Dr. Strauss the Marcus Welby of Bensonhurst four generations ago (not decades, generations!), because he was the most caring, nurturing, polymath who was more than just a doctor — he was our family.
He delivered god knows how many babies in the neighborhood. He knew more about our heritage, history, and religion more than we did. He could speak on any subject and never let you get a word in edgewise. He talked, and talked and talked, until you forgot what you went to him for. He made house calls, you could call him at his office or home at any time of the day or night, weekday or weekend and he would come and cure you!
The ol’Screecher recalls my first office on the corner of 25th Avenue and 85th Street that Dr. Strauss shared with a dentist. It was always crowded with his patients, and his massive desk was forever cluttered with papers, files, fountain pens, and models of hearts, lungs, skeletons, and his collection of pipes in their rack. And there was always this lingering smell of pipe tobacco and cologne.
Most important was the framed photos of his family which he was always so proud of — his beloved wife Shirley, to whom he was married for 47 years, and his two beautiful children.
For 50 years, he was my only doctor, and he wasn’t just any general practitioner — he was a specialist in his own way. He was the surgeon who performed circumcisions (including my own, in my 40s!), a psychiatrist, a psychologist, counselor, rabbi, priest, and minister all at the same time. When he retired some years ago, I panicked! Who’s going to take care of me. Who’s going to keep me alive! Fact is, there will never be anyone like Dr. Strauss and, actually, there never was!
More than 120 friends and family came to his 90th birthday party, which was akin to an Academy Awards celebration with song, dance, and video montage. A letter dating back to 1981 was reproduced from Bensonhurst families read, “There are some things in this world that should always remain: The Yanks in the Stadium, the Parachute Jump in Coney Island, Carnegie Hall and you Dr. Strauss, taking care of us people in Brooklyn.”
To his devoted wife Shirley and the kids and grandkids, the Santa Maria, Vento, and Zazzali families, thank you and god for allowing Dr. Strauss to become such an important part of our lives. Godspeed on your heavenly call.
I’m sure that no one in Heaven will ever get sick again.
Screech at you next week!