Remembering Peter Strauss: “His Smile, for Sure, Will Stay With Us’

Person on stage winning an award.

Peter Strauss, center-left, with cycling legend Davis Phinney, after receiving the 2005 Every Victory Counts Award with his wife, Kitty, at the Sunflower Revolution gala. Far right, emcee Rob Braun of Local 12. Photo by Mark Bowen.

The UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute’s clinicians, researchers, supporters and staff mourn the passing of Peter Strauss, a former Cincinnati City Councilman and Vice Mayor who was a friend to many, a champion for the underdog, and an inspiring example of how to live with a chronic disease. Peter passed away on Friday, Feb. 12, after living with Parkinson’s disease for nearly 20 years.

“We remember Peter as a wonderful man, a great American, who made innumerable contributions to his community,” says John M. Tew, MD, Clinical Director of UCNI. “He set an example for all of us in his determination to live fully while combating a disease that diminished his ability to participate in the civic dialogue he loved so well. His wife, Kitty, was at his side throughout, unwavering in her support.”

Peter and Kitty played a pivotal role in bringing Cincinnati’s Parkinson’s community together. A small event at their home in 2003 helped unite Parkinson’s advocates who, under the leadership of Kathleen Krumme, produced the first Sunflower Revolution. The Sunflower events have raised more than $1.3 million for Parkinson’s research and wellness since 2004.

Kim Seroogy, PhD, Director of the Selma Schottenstein Harris Lab for Research in Parkinson’s, vividly remembers the 2003 gathering at Kitty and Peter’s home. “This singular event, perhaps not so important at the time, was the beginning of a whole new community of friends for me — local Parkinson’s patients, their families and caregivers – for which I will always be thankful,” Dr. Seroogy says. “In the too-short years that I knew him, Peter made a big difference to me, both as a Parkinson’s researcher and as a person. His class, dignity, grace, and even humor in the face of this terrible disease was extraordinary. He was, and is, a constant inspiration for me to keep working diligently and unceasingly for the cure.”    Recalling her favorite memory of Peter, Kathy Krumme says: “It is from the Sunflower Revolution gala in 2007, the year we had a band that played Motown music. Peter stood up, flung off his tie and danced with Kitty like a prince! It seemed surreal, how he could move so gracefully, as if he had flung off his Parkinson’s disease, along with his tie. It’s a priceless memory that I treasure.”

Rob Braun, a former Sunflower emcee and honoree, knew Peter as both a news anchor at Local 12 and as a Parkinson’s advocate whose parents suffered from Parkinson’s disease. “Peter was the first politician I ever met who always seemed to tell you the full truth,” Rob remembers. “His work for the city was never aimed at getting re-elected. He only wanted to do what was right for the city. I would often go to him to learn the in-depth information about things going on in the city. He helped me give a better report because I had significant background information. He always had time for you, whether in the evening or on the weekends. Never flashy, always focused on doing the best he could for the city he loved. He will be missed.”

Maureen Gartner, a nurse at the Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders, recalls the privilege of meeting Peter and helping to care for him. “Although his disease was already very advanced, his heart and smile spoke what his words could not. His eyes would brighten when Kitty talked of their granddaughter, Anna.”

Says Fredy J. Revilla, MD, Director of the Gardner Center: “Peter Strauss was my patient and a good friend as well. Parkinson’s disease tried to slow his movements and mask his face, but it could never stop his smile. Even in difficult moments he would always greet me with a smile and an honest handshake. He was not a complainer, no matter how severe his symptoms were; he fought a great battle, with grace and dignity, and he sure made his smile prevail. Peter, along with Kitty, was an advocate for Parkinson’s research, and his dream was to see the field get closer to a cure. We lost Peter and he will be greatly missed, but his smile, for sure, will stay with us.”

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