Frank Strathman distributes food to those who need it at the Hi-Pointe Center twice a week. The 83-year-old volunteer's efforts are greatly appreciated, say those who work with him.
Frank Strathman once was named "mayor" of the Dogtown neighborhood he lives in, but he's always preferred to be just one of the constituents.
"I think I was the fourth or fifth one," he said with a smile about the annual "Mayor of Dogtown" honor bestowed on a resident over the past few years by the Clayton-Tamm Neighborhood Association after the neighborhood's annual St. Patrick's Day parade.
But being a real mayor was never on the mind of Strathman, 83, who from the time he was young thought about the welfare of the people he lived and worked with.
He's shown it in a variety of ways, through his membership in United Auto Workers Local 819 at Carter Carburetor Co. for more than 40 years, his involvement in St. James the Greater Catholic Church, and now his volunteer activity at the HiPointe Center, 6020 Southwest Ave.
"I've had a wonderful life," said the sprightly Strathman, who retired from Carter Carburetor 18 years ago, but still is an usher at 11 a.m. Mass on Sundays and a volunteer two days a week at the community center.
For about five hours each Monday and Wednesday, Strathman helps distribute food at the center to needy elderly residents living within the area Hi-Pointe serves: Oakland Avenue to Chippewa Street, Kingshighway Boulevard west to the city limits. He has been doing so for more than a decade and is the oldest volunteer at the center, said its director, Nahid Nunnally.
"He's very valuable," she said. "He checks up on people in the neighborhood and lets us know of those who need help."
Nunnally said Strathman has a way of making the people going through the food line feel "special," particularly by giving them a little extra in their allotments.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, he hands out fruit on a distribution line that gives bread, vegetables, some meat and dairy products, all donated by local stores and restaurants.
"It keeps me active," he said of his community involvement. "I can do more good things this way. We've got enough misery."
Distributing food to the needy is nothing new for Strathman. Several times, as a union member, he did the same thing when his local was on strike.
He does more than talk to and joke with people who come through the line. He often sere nades them when they arrive or are leaving.
A tenor who can still hit an impressive range of notes, Strathman recently sang "If I Had My Way" to a group of women brought over. on MidEast Area Agency on Aging van. When it concluded, the ladies and even their male van driver gave him a warm ovation.
"We try to make them feel happy, even if they cry," Strathman said of his singing for the elderly people who come to HiPointe for food. "Some of them might have just lost their husbands."
He certainly understands their grief. His wife of 56 years, Alma, died in February.
"My wife used to like that song," Strathman said of "If I Had My Way."
Strathman inherited a musical talent from his parents and often displayed it in the St. James choir and in musicals put on by the parish's Holy Name Society. He also inherited his father's union activism.
"I was a great union man," he said. "I never wanted to be a union officer, but just to work around the others so I could learn their problems and bring them up at the meeting. When you're an officer you don't always hear those things."
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