One of America’s latest mass shootings touched wealth management directly while robbing family and friends of a beloved grandfather attending a holiday parade in his longtime home.
Financial advisor Stephen Straus, an 88-year-old resident of suburban Highland Park outside his native Chicago, was one of the seven people killed in the July 4 shooting, according to the identification of the victims by the community’s municipal government. Family members describe the late Stifel broker as being “known for his universal warmth and kindness, his strong sense of humor and his love of the world,” their obituary for Straus said. He was survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Linda, his brother, Laurence, two children and four grandchildren.
“He could often be found at the Art Institute, at the symphony or on his Metra ride downtown to work each day,” family members said in the obituary. “Stephen loved to take in all that life had to offer, up to his last moments. He was remarkably sharp and fit for his age and took daily walks or bike rides. He will be missed with heavy hearts by all who knew him.”
Each of the more than 300 mass shootings in the country this year and all of the senseless gun violence over many years leaves an impact on the professional community of wealth management. The connection can stem from psychological trauma often associated with money and triggered by the fear of a massacre at school, work, a movie theater or any public place. The massacre in Buffalo earlier this year targeted Black grocery shoppers who are among the industry’s historically excluded groups. Or, in the case of some incidents like the Las Vegas shooting at a concert in 2017, advisors themselves fall victim to the murderous rampages.
Stifel CEO Ron Kruszewski sent a company-wide memo on July 6 eulogizing Straus, the 24-year Stifel veteran who had begun his financial services career in 1968.
“He continued to serve his valued clients at age 88, not because he had to, but because he wanted to, commuting to the office each morning by train,” Kruszewski said. “He was always willing to share ideas — an ambassador of the office. He was kind and gentle, warm-hearted and had a great sense of humor.”
Straus was one of at least three Jews killed in the shooting, the Forward reported. Highland Park, which is on the North Shore of Lake Michigan about 25 miles north of downtown Chicago, has a large Jewish population. The suspect has admitted to the shooting, but investigators haven’t identified any signs that he targeted victims by race or religion, the Associated Press reported. Straus had called his younger brother, whom he spoke with several times a day, to invite him to the parade before likely going to it alone, his niece Cynthia told the Forward.
“Steve looked out for the whole family,” she said. “He was like a big, big oak tree, an umbrella of well-being for all of us. It’s a big loss.”
Straus went to the parade in Highland Park on the Fourth of July each year, his son Peter Straus told the Chicago Tribune, remembering his father as the type who didn’t have a preference between the White Sox and the Cubs in baseball but “would probably tell you whoever you wanted to hear.” Straus’ son called it “ridiculous” for civilians to own guns like the one investigators say the shooter used from a rooftop where they later recovered 83 bullet shells and three ammunition magazines. He and his wife said Straus was a loving grandpa.
“He was kind and sweet and very sharp,” his daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Versten, told the Tribune.
More than two dozen other victims suffered wounds in the shooting, and the people killed that day ranged from 35 years old to Strauss’ age. A GoFundMe campaign for two of the victims, Irina and Kevin McCarthy, and their surviving son, Aiden, has raised nearly $3 million. Straus’ family will hold a ceremony Friday afternoon at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, according to the obituary. Instead of flowers, the family has asked for memorial donations to the congregation and to the American Cancer Society.