Herb Strauss, 78, a refugee from Nazi Germany, advertising executive, cantor and creator of a foundation that raised millions for leukemia research, died Sunday, Nov. 25, 2007, one day before his fund’s annual benefit concert.
“He had a tuxedo ready and planned to come to the concert by ambulance and wheelchair. The foundation was his life,” Evelyn Strauss told Newsday.
Strauss founded the Lauri Strauss Leukemia Foundation after his daughter died in 1984 at 27. Annual concerts at Carnegie Hall with performers such as Liza Minnelli, Barry Manilow, and others raised $3.5 million distributed as seed grants. According to a report in the New York Sun, the foundation said its grants have leveraged more than $130 million in additional research funding.
Strauss was born in Germany and fled Nazi Germany with his father, a rabbi, and mother, to Cleveland. Strauss sang in his family’s synagogue from age 6.
He began his career at NBC-TV in New York City and worked for the game show “Treasure Hunt,” and then moved into advertising. Clients included Volkswagen, IBM, and Burlington, for whom he did an award-winning commercial that included the slogan, “Burlington Socks Don’t Drop,” the Sun reported.
In his private life, Strauss was cantor of Port Washington Jewish Center for more than 30 years.
The benefit concerts began several years after his daughter died of leukemia, when he asked family friend, Judy Collins, to sing at a concert. It became an annual event and in 1992 moved later to Carnegie Hall.
This year’s honorees were songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Marvin Hamlisch conducted the New York Pops orchestra. The show went on.