If the name George Hans Strauss doesn’t ring a bell, that doesn’t mean you are out of the loop. But as a career fed, it is a name you probably should know.
George, who died Oct. 10, was like hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who are known as the Greatest Generation. Because of the Great Depression and World War II, they were alike in many ways — yet also rugged individualists. Most became solid citizens. Some were heroes and superstars.
We are losing them at the rate of about 1,500 per day.
Because of their war service, many of that generation got to go to college on the GI bill. Because of hard times during the depression, many were looking for good, steady jobs. A lot of them were accustomed to public service. Many went into government. Like George.
George was born in Austria in 1924. His family came to the U.S. in 1939 because of the growing anti-Jewish mood (to put it mildly) in Germany and Austria. He joined the U.S. Army at 19, becoming a tech sergeant in the infantry, then with the MPs. He served in England and France. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1968 and joined the Office of Management and Budget (then the Bureau of the Budget) the same year.
At OMB George served under five Presidents. He was a star. Often behind the scenes. He started as a personnel and compensation specialist then rose to SES status. As an expert on personnel (people are now known as human capital) and compensation, I dealt with George. A lot.
That George was smart quickly became apparent. That he was funny, in a droll, old-world sort of way emerged later. In talking with people after George’s death (Parkinson’s disease), I realized how little I really knew about him. We never talked about our military service (his a little longer and a lot more distinguished than mine). We talked a lot, but it was mostly business.
I realize now how young I must have appeared to him. Partly because I was. A newcomer, almost a kid, covering the federal beat that he knew inside and out. Yet he was always gracious, forthcoming and helpful. He helped keep me from making some really dumb mistakes (although I still managed enough on my own) several times that I know of. And probably more that I don’t.
Bottom line, he was a very good man. A patriot (if that term is still allowed), a dedicated public servant and — like so many people then and now — proud to be in the federal government which was, and still is, lucky to have people like him. Maybe some people you know. Maybe you too.
If you knew George, you were lucky. If you didn’t, you may be lucky enough to know someone like him. Better still, you may be one.
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