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Larry and Sharon StraussLake Monticello resident Larry Strauss has been counseling people for over 40 years and spoke about his experiences, from 9/11 to the recent event in Charlottesville, and how these events have shaped society.

“In natural or man-made disasters there are different stages survivors go through and stress is the normal reaction of course, but the commonality is loss, displacement, feelings of futility and fear of the future,” he said. “Mostly my job is to listen and help them with resources. I have an appreciation for what they’ve been through.”

Strauss recalled growing up in Brooklyn and later working in the area where the Twin Towers went down.

“When I was a kid I used to make deliveries around that area,” he said. “I was startled for the first 24 hours after it happened.”

Strauss’ own past may have been an influence on helping others through trying times. His family, Russian immigrants, fled Eastern Europe in the late 1900s, beginning a new life in America, but the new life came with its own share of difficulties. In 1918 his grandfather was killed in a robbery. In 1921 his mother came over from Europe and the ship she was on sank. “She was never able to board a boat or a ship after that experience,” he said.

After years of working in mental health, counseling disaster victims, prison staff, substance abusers, working in the military and volunteering with the Newport News Police Department in the forensics and homicide section, there is little left Strauss has not seen or heard.

“I deal in issues, not personalities,” he said. “I let them talk. The key is listening. In talking I can get to the underlying cause, help them to clarify issues and prioritize and to resolve as best as possible in the short term.”

That more societal issues seem to surface nowadays than in the past has been linked to longstanding societal norms of suppression, Strauss said. He stated that more issues are coming to light, both good and bad, because society is more open. Society needs to identify the issues and deal with them. He quoted George Santayana who famously said, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” He pointed out that there are still unresolved issues, including racism and gender equality, but that new issues also keep surfacing.

Through all this, Strauss’ coping mechanism is to have a sense of humor. Strauss and his wife of 45 years, Sharon, have an interesting and offbeat hobby. One day Strauss’ father, who loved to collect as much as Strauss does, brought home the upper torso of a store window mannequin. Strauss, who was attending college at the time, took the mannequin with him, thinking it was cool and different. It evolved into a collection. Her name was Martha.
Martha was involved in many stories throughout the years. Sharon told one of the delivery man who saw Martha sitting in the chair in the window and could not get her attention while ringing the doorbell.

“We found Jackson, our 6-foot mannequin, in Florida and when traveling with him we stopped off at a hotel. It scared the maid half to death when she came in to clean the room and found him in bed,” she said. During the trip they wrapped Jackson in plastic bags and because he was so tall they stuck him in the back seat. But his legs stuck out and onlookers stopped in traffic wondered what it was they were actually seeing.

When the couple moved, the mannequins ended up in the basement, wrapped up with only their legs sticking out from under the blankets. “A repairman thought he was in the home of a serial killer,” she said.

“The reactions are amazing,” said Strauss. Over the years the couple has collected about a dozen mannequins. Bently the butler stands in the dining area, ready to be of service. They name their mannequins after places they’ve been to, like Jackson, Florida, and Tappy for Tappahanock.

Strauss continues to volunteer and has counseled victims of the Charlottesville event.

“People come into the University of Virginia with a plethora of emotions – mostly rage, anger and loss –and I provide the support, helping them to come to terms with what they are feeling,” he said. “We used to be able to work out our problems but we have such adversarial relationships. A lack of civility is at the core.