Henry Strohminger

Auto dealer became a mentor to transplant patients after his own heart surgery nearly 22 years ago

May 18, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Henry Strohminger, a retired automobile dealership owner who was a founder of a support group for heart transplant patients, died of kidney failure Friday at his Surfside Beach, S.C., home. The former Glen Arm and Severna Park resident was 77.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Hudson Street in Highlandtown, he attended Sacred Heart of Jesus School and was a 1952 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School. He remained active in the school's alumni association and was its president for two terms and chaired its bull and oyster roasts. He was inducted into the Calvert Hall Alumni Hall of Fame in 1990.

"He was a true friend of the school and a real character. He was always teasing people," said a fellow alumnus, Art Casserly of Perry Hall. "He donated at least six minivans to the school. He was dedicated to Calvert Hall and to its teachers, the Christian Brothers."

After graduating from high school, Mr. Strohminger joined Schaefer & Strohminger, an automotive dealership founded by his father in 1917 at Fleet and Eaton streets. He initially worked in its auto parts department and rose within the organization in sales and executive management. He helped expand the business by establishing a Towson location at Delaware and Pennsylvania avenues in 1960, where he sold the Rambler, an American Motors' sedan and station wagon. He later sold Dodges at the same spot.

He and family members moved their original dealership from Highlandtown to Dundalk Avenue. They added an Oldsmobile sales division on Belair Road in Fullerton in 1975.

"He was personality-plus," said a nephew, David Strohminger of Arnold. "When you met him, you wouldn't forget him. He was so outgoing and made friends easily through his sense of humor."

Mr. Strohminger, who had rheumatic fever twice as a boy and was once confined to a wheelchair, was diagnosed with a weakened aorta valve as an adult. In 1988, he underwent heart transplant surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He received the heart of a young man from Cumberland who had been killed in a motorcycle accident. He was the hospital's 97th transplant, and he annually celebrated the date of his surgery, Dec. 6.

Family members said he was inspired by the improved health the transplant brought him. He became a founder of the Heart Transplant Foundation and worked through Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"He made his rounds and called on patients," said Carolyn Kramer, an official of the foundation. "He was a walking ad for transplantation. He told things as they were, but was such a positive person who kept things upbeat, he inspired confidence."

Dr. Edward Kasper, the chief of clinical cardiology at Hopkins, described Mr. Strohminger as a mentor to heart transplant patients.

"He manifested a great interest in others," Dr. Kasper said. "He was also just a terrific person. I'd often ask him to come in and talk."

Mr. Strohminger retired from his auto business in 1987. Several years later, he moved to South Carolina and returned to Baltimore numerous times a year.

He enjoyed boating and was a Colts and Ravens fan. Family members said he never surrendered his affection for the auto business and spent time with family and friends.

A Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Ware Avenue, Towson.

Survivors include his wife of two years, Joyce Johnson Ham; two sons, Henry Strohminger III of Towson and Karl Strohminger of Charlotte, N.C.; a stepdaughter, Tracy Wright of Charleston, S.C.; a brother, George Strohminger of Parkville; 19 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

He outlived his first two wives. The former Mary Papafilipou died in 1997. His second wife, Norma Coates, died in 2005. He was predeceased by three children: a son, Mark Strohminger, died in 2004; a daughter, Judy Friedberg, died in 2003; and another daughter, Lucinda Strohminger, died in 1957.


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