Edward Strazdins Born Sept. 19 1918
Edward Strazdins of 23 Hilton Rd. Dryden, NY died peacefully at home on September 13, 2020, surrounded by the love of his family.
Life is fleeting and should be embraced, to be lived with passion and purpose. Our father did this in extraordinary ways, living an extraordinary life. Born at the end of WWI, September 19, 1918, in Nitaure, Latvia, Edward was the son of Anna and Juris Strazdins. It was the year that the Baltic nation Latvia gained independence along with her sister nations of Lithuania and Estonia. Through the hard work and ingenuity of their citizens these Baltic countries enjoyed amazing prosperity under newfound freedom. Dad was the youngest of four brothers, Edvards, Alberts, Arturs and Elmars. Growing up in Latvia Edward worked on his parents’ farm taking the cows out to pasture at the age of 8 along with his trusted dog Chammie, helping with his mother’s beehives, and later learning forestry techniques. He studied hard in the grammar school and then in high school in Riga. He received his B. S. degree in chemistry at the University of Latvia, Riga, while also working at a cellulose factory. When war erupted our father was drafted into the Latvian army. As Hitler’s and Stalin’s troops fought over the possession of Latvia, it was time to escape or forever lose one’s freedom or one’s life. Later, as refugees, our father and our mother, Vera, spent 5 years in DP (displaced persons) camps in Germany. Daughter Baiba was born there at the very end of WWII. Even while in the camps our father continued to study, receiving his M.S. degree in Cellulose Chemistry and Paper Science from the University of Darmstadt, Germany.
In September of 1949, Vera, Edward and Baiba, arrived in the United States, sailing into New York Harbor on a freedom ship to start a new life in America. They landed in Newark NJ, and Dad got a job cleaning chemical tanks at Dupont. A Jewish Russian immigrant who ran a dry-cleaning business made friends with Dad. One day this kind gentleman closed his shop up and drove Dad for an interview at American Cyanamid Company. That day changed Dad’s life and ours’ completely. Edward was hired as a chemist by American Cyanamid and our family settled in Stamford Connecticut. From 1949 to 1985 he worked for American Cyanamid Company at the Stamford Research Laboratories, advancing from chemist to Principal Research Scientist in 1972. As soon as it was possible, Edward, Vera and Baiba became naturalized citizens. Daughter Anna was born in Connecticut, a US citizen by birth.
Juggling family demands and work, Dad completed graduate work in polymer chemistry at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, NY but stopped short of getting a doctorate. During his professional career, our father had 22 US patents, and 32 national and international publications, on the theoretical aspects of paper sizing, strength improvement, process-control, theoretical and practical aspects of application of electro-kinetics in papermaking. His work changed the future of the paper making industry. Recipient of numerous prestigious scientific awards, Edward was invited to conferences in many countries to present his research.
A man of many professional accomplishments, in his daughters’ eyes his number one job was Father! He gave us an adventurous childhood and was always there for us through the years of our youth and into adulthood. We believed that he could do anything and everything, He took us ice skating on ponds and rivers of Connecticut, weaving around tree limbs frozen into the ice. He designed and built kayaks, adding sails when we took them out on the lakes of Maine. He single- handedly finished off the second floor of the first house we owned as a family in Stamford, giving each of his girls our own room and making space for our maternal grandparents to live with us as well.
For immigrants who were once refuges, family was everything! We were so fortunate to have our aunt, uncle and cousins living close by, as well as other Latvians who had arrived in America the same time we did. Keeping alive our Latvian heritage was important, and our parents made this happen for their daughters. Dad drove us into NYC to the Yonkers Latvian Lutheran Church and to attend Latvian Saturday School. For a period of 5 years, he was instrumental in overseeing the work done to build and maintain the Latvian Summer Camp in the Catskills. All the while he was juggling the demands of his career and making choices for how to use his time. Throughout his lifetime he also helped relatives who had stayed behind in Latvia, sending them packages and money. He never forgot how fortunate we were to be living and working in the United States of America.
Dad was a master of multitasking and making “messes with a purpose.” Our garage and basement in Stamford spilled over with epoxy resins, tools, fishing gear, boating equipment, and on occasion a deer hanging upside down during hunting season. Dad knew we wouldn’t eat the venison and tried to camouflage it as “beef stew”. It didn’t work! Together with his oldest brother, our uncle Elmars, he would spear eels at night by the light of a flashlight in the cove. (Stamford was on Long Island Sound.) Smoked eels became a delicacy that even his daughters came to appreciate.
During summer vacations he would drive our family from Connecticut to Newfoundland to visit Latvian friends and go salmon fishing. We watched first-hand construction of the trans-Canada highway through the rugged wilds of Canada. We camped on remote islands only accessible by boat in the middle of wilderness lakes, hiked rocky mountain trails, scaled fire tower look-out stations, gathered wild blueberries and strawberries, ate trout for breakfast lunch and dinner, and often were on the alert for bears. He taught us how to canoe, kayak and water ski, not only on lakes but on the Sound, with larger waves and seaweed building up around our skis as he raced along with his boat. An avid fisherman, hunter and woodsman, our father lived for the outdoors, instilling an appreciation and respect for nature in us as our family spent summers exploring the Adirondack Park, the wilderness and lakes of Maine, and the wilds of Canada. This love of nature was organic to who our father was, stemming from his childhood and youth in Latvia.
Edward loved the arts. One particularly gifted Latvian painter, Edgars Vinters, was a schoolmate of Dad’s in their boyhood days. Dad’s home and subsequently the homes of his daughters and grandchildren were filled with Vinters’ paintings. The impressionistic landscapes evoked memories of Latvia for Dad and gave us a glimpse of nature’s beauty there. His appreciation of music was equally profound. As a young man he played the violin and later immersed himself in listening to classical music with his beloved sound system, which he built himself. The neighbors surely heard it as well, as Dad cranked up the volume!
He loved his native Latvia, but deeply respected and loved the United States of America, his adopted homeland, ever cognizant of the gift of freedom our great nation bestows to those who come here. He was a true American patriot.
Although our parents divorced, they remained life-long friends. With time Dad remarried and together with his wife, Sally, enjoyed traveling in the US and abroad: Iceland, Latvia, the French Alpes for skiing, and more. Skiing was a sport they both shared, one which Dad relished right into his nineties. Living first in Connecticut, Sally and Dad eventually settled in the scenic coastal town of North Hampton, NH where they made good friends and enjoyed the quiet beauty of the woods, the rugged seashore and all the attractions that Portsmouth Seaport had to offer. They were close to Sally’s children and grandchildren who lived in MA. Dad wasted no time putting his woodsman skills to use cutting down pine trees that needed thinning on their property as well as for the neighbors, all the while in his late eighties and mid-nineties. Cooking was a favorite pastime for Dad. One had to be prepared for the commentary on the chemistry behind any of his recipes. Latvian sourdough bread and bacon/ham pirags were among his specialties, as well as preparing fish of all kinds. Dad and Sally also had a retreat in Saranac Lake, NY. It was the scene of visits by children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren, and good friends. Boating, fishing, hiking, hunting, and skiing were all on the agenda in Saranac Lake.
In 2014, a difficult recovery following an accident prompted Dad to move in with his granddaughter Andrea’s family in the Finger Lakes of NY. There he could be cared for without going into an assisted living/ nursing home. In the years since then, his two oldest grandchildren, Andrea Lamb and Kristian Woodall, their spouses and his seven great grandchildren have been blessed to have quality years with their Papa, loving him, learning from him, and honoring him. He always looked forward to the visits from Sally, and her children and grandchildren as well. Everyone loved Papa Ed! As his health permitted, Ed also spent time with his daughter, Anne’s family in Florida, and visits with his daughter, Baiba and son- in- law Al, in Pennsylvania, and at their home on the Jersey shore.
Ed is survived by his wife of 34 years, Sally Strazdins, her children Louise Mizgerd, Mary Moses Kinney, George Moses, and their respective families, former wife Vera Strazdins, daughter Baiba Vasys and husband Algis, daughter Anne Schlenk and husband Robert, grandson Brendan Schlenk, granddaughter Andrea Lamb and husband Jeffery, great grandchildren Nikolas, Benjamin and Grace Lamb, grandson Kristian Woodall and wife Pamela, great grandchildren Lincoln, Aliah, Rhodes and Jade Woodall, niece Silvija Wheeler and husband David, niece Beate Vukson and husband George, and nieces Valda Ziemele, Zigrida Vegnere and Inara Krumina, who reside in Latvia.
Our families have been abundantly blessed by the inspirational work and life of a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. A man with a deep faith in God, a Latvian and an American patriot, a gentleman who led by example, Edward will remain in our hearts forever. We miss you Papa! We love you Ed! We rejoice that you are with our Lord Jesus and reunited with your parents and brothers.
At this time The Celebration of Life for Edward Strazdins is postponed due to Covid-19 challenges. Friends and family will receive an update via e-mail once plans are in place. A private family service for placement of his urn will be held at the Latvian Memorial Park in Elka Park, NY, in the spring of 2021. Edward’s final resting place will be next to his oldest brother Elmars Strazdins. Together in life, they will be together for eternity. Donations in his memory may be made to the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John, in Newtown Square, PA.
Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John. 301 N. Newton Street Road - Newtown Square, PA 19073 Mailing address: P.O. Box 469, Newtown Square, PA 19073
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