Editor’s Note: The Gardiner Gazette is not in a position to include regular obituaries, but we are sometimes moved to comment on the passing of residents who have touched more lives than most.
David Straus, a quarter-century fixture at Gardiner Town Board and Planning Board meetings, died on June 11 at the age of 84. The Chicago-born son of two physicians, David became responsible for measuring his blood sugar several times daily and injecting himself for insulin-dependent diabetes at age seven. His early interests in science included frequent visits to the city’s Museum of Science and Industry. With his parents and four siblings, he spent summers at a family-owned farm near Lake Michigan and became interested in gardening.
It was also his privilege to attend performances of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which led to a life-long interest in classical music.
David earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Chicago in 1960 and a post-doctoral fellowship at Princeton. He was a chemistry professor at SUNY (Buffalo 1965-72 and New Paltz 1972-99) and, as a councilor for the American Chemical Society for many years, stayed up-to-date on a broad spectrum of biochemical research.
With his wife, Harriet McWethy Straus, now a retired law librarian, he raised three children and was the delighted grandfather of eight grandchildren.
An energetic Gardiner Democrat, David served as chair of the Gardiner Zoning Board of Appeals and the Gardiner Democratic Committee. He also served as president of the Gardiner Homeowners Association and was a long-time member of the Gardiner Environmental Conservation Committee and the Gardiner Open Space Commission.
In addition to his heartfelt contributions to the causes of social justice, David was a tireless defender of the environment, equipped with the fundamental knowledge and analytical tools needed to penetrate the murkier aspects of Gardiner’s, and Ulster County’s, land-use issues.
A garden aficionado, David grew everything from raspberries to lima beans. Much of the Straus home’s lawn is a native wildflower meadow accented with carefully chosen, unusual accent plants. David had fun with new varieties, but also persisted in growing milkweed and other native species, frequently from seed.
Though professorial and exhaustive, David had a dry but mischievous sense of humor. He was, nevertheless, plain-spoken about his concerns regarding water quality, soil contamination, planning governance and enforcement and conflicts of interest.
Town improvements and growth pleased him too; he thought that Gardiner deserved a real grocery store.