Dr. Elton Strauss, chief of orthopedic trauma and adult reconstruction at Mount Sinai Medical Center, died of complications from T-cell lymphoma July 8 at St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill, his family said. He was 69.
He “was always larger than life,” his son, Eric Strauss, said. “He was a hugger. He was loud and loved to laugh.”
A dedicated physician and teacher to young surgeons, Elton Strauss specialized in fracture repairs and hip and knee replacement surgery in his role as chief at Mount Sinai in Manhattan from 1984 to 2013.
“He would often see nearly 100 patients on a Tuesday and Thursday, operate the rest of the week, and do follow-up rounds early Saturday morning,” said Eric Strauss, 44, of Brooklyn. “My sister and I would tag along occasionally. We saw a man who had great compassion in the room with the families and patients, and wasn’t above giving people a strongly worded pep talk.”
A member of the National Disaster Medical System, Strauss was tapped to be on a team of elite trauma specialists on hand for emergencies during President Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration.
The Roslyn resident was born April 24, 1948, in Brooklyn. Strauss published more than 50 peer-reviewed publications and lectured internationally. He retired from operating in 2012, but continued to run the orthopedic clinic at Mount Sinai and served as an expert witness in legal cases.
Elton Strauss met his wife, Karen Strauss, 67, on a blind date when he was 17 and she was 16. He loved telling the story of their first meeting, never failing to mention his future wife’s expensive tastes: She ordered shrimp cocktail and lobster at The Brass Rail, followed by bonbons at Radio City Music Hall, family members said.
The couple wed in Lynbrook in 1971.
Strauss rarely said “no,” and was quick to offer help to strangers and loved ones, said his daughter, Elisa Strauss, 41, of Larchmont.
When she launched her business, Confetti Cakes, Strauss occasionally would pitch in to deliver his daughter’s confections from New York City to customers on Long Island.
“He said it was the most stressful experience,” she said. “He could handle a gunshot wound better than he could handle wrecking one of his daughter’s cakes . . . You always knew he was going to get it done, and nothing was too big or small to ask of him.”
Strauss had a gift for making people believe in themselves, his son said. That was evidenced by the man’s unofficial adoption of a young boy named Oscar, whom the family befriended during a vacation to the Dominican Republic.
He stayed in touch with Oscar over the years through weekly phone calls and letters, eventually financing the boy’s college and postgraduate education, Eric Strauss said. Oscar is now a civil engineer working in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
“My dad . . . thought anyone could do anything as long as they gave it their full effort,” Eric Strauss said.
Strauss received a bachelor of science in biology from Long Island University C.W. Post in 1970, and graduated from medical school at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico in 1974. He completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
In addition to his wife, son and daughter, Strauss is survived by his mother, Shirley Strauss, 90, of Brooklyn; sister, Bonnie Strauss Carroll of Montclair, New Jersey; and four grandchildren.
The family followed Strauss’ request and played “We Are the Champions” by Queen at a private family service held July 16.