Anthony Ralph Strouth, 1945-2014

Tony Strouth and son

A number of folks have asked me to post the eulogy from my father’s funeral, hence I am posting it here.

I am wearing my dads suit, it’s not that I don’t have other suits , but this is the serious suit, the suit for meeting with authority figures, the suit I wear when I need to look respectable. Its the suit I wear for funerals. When my dad gave me this suit about 3 years ago it never dawned on me that it would be the suit that I would wear to his funeral.

But then we don’t ever really think about that. Truth be told in spite of his many long years of drawn and exaggerated illness and hospital stays, I never thought he’d die. He’d get sick, it would be a very close call, and then he’d just sort of pop up like Willey E Coyote in the road runner cartoons. Dad was like that–not Wiley e Coyote, though I think we all know he’d be the number 1 salesman for the Acme Corporation. Rather, Tony Strouth was a character, someone who is almost larger than life, one that stories seemed to swirl around. And regardless of who was telling it, they seemed to grow in stature. Till they become the stuff of legend.

A few years ago I was buying a suit, I told you I have other suits…and as I was talking to the clerk, a young guy, I was lamenting about the loss of suit salesmen, explaining that my dad had been a suit salesman. Then he told me a story, a story about a sales guy seeing Carl Eller walking down the street and then a salesman running out of the shop and chasing him three blocks, when he catches up to him the sales man says something like the bad news is you look awful, the good news is I can help” he then brought him back and sold him three suits, and shortly after sold the majority of the Vikings suits.

The sales guy was more than a little surprised when I told him it was my dad. But that is thing about him the stories only grew. I remember that day, though I am pretty sure it was Bob Lurtisema, and he only had to run outside the store, but he did wind up seedling suits to most of the team. There is a fine line between story and legend, and dad was a guy who sailed across that line with ease and grace.

The thing about dad is that he was complicated. I can’t pretend that our relationship was traditional father son stuff, it wasn’t. But that’s OK. I think of dad like a diamond, multi faceted with a certain brilliance that at the right angles could be blinding. and you often saw only one or two sides, and no one ever saw those same sides. It made him as charming as it could be vexing; endearing and infuriating often at the same time. A study in contradiction that sometimes all you could do was to shrug your shoulders and say “Eh that’s Tony”.

If I had to pick one word to describe him, it would have to be Salesman. Because as almost all of you know, he was always selling, everything was a deal or a negotiation. And he was a master of it. He could sell ice to Minnesotans or phat laces to the nation. Dad sold a lot of things to a lot of people but that has to be one of my favorite, Tony Strouth as inadvertent godfather of hip hop fashion. He had a remarkable knack for stumbling into the right time and place, not always at the same time, mind you, but when he did it could be magical.

He loved a deal like no man I have ever seen. He could be merciless or your best friend depending on what he wanted. And yet even if it was the latter, you would still pick up the phone the next time he called because “Eh that’s Tony.”

He was loving and caring scoundrel and rogue Samaritan. He was a riddle wrapped in an enigma dressed in Tommy Hillfinger. He touched peoples lives, even if you only met him once, it was an encounter you remembered.

My wife fell under his charm the first time she met him, in part I think because of his crazy optimism. “Prosperity was right around the corner,” a sentiment that seemed to follow him even as he walked along the great wall of health issues.

It’s hard not to talk about Dad’s death, his decline was long and slow with more cliff hangers then seemed possible. I sat by his deathbed so many times that it was hard not going a little numb. But I’d like to ask you a favor, at least for today.

Don’t think about the decline, think about the rise. A dirt poor teenager setting out on his own, who built an empire. Who raised not one but three families., three families that sort of morphed and became one mega family. With branches worldwide. Remember uncle Tony of the ridiculous excess, brother Tony who would help wherever he could.

My dad wasn’t perfect, but who really is. I wear his suit today a bit like armor, hoping to catch some of the near mythical courage he seemed to have. To stand bold and confident when deep inside you are lost. We are all a little lost, especially today, its why I am thankful for this suit. Because it’s going to be ok.

I love you dad, Bon route.