Please honor Theta Eta 254, Brother Gary D. Strasser jr.

The passing of fellow brothers is always a hard time for all of us. But the passing of a brother that had a personal effect on each and every one of us, saddens our hearts just a little bit more.  The Theta Eta tribute page will honor these Sigma Nu's and will serve as a remembrance of those friends in the form of stories and pictures.

Brothers, Please email your tributes here

 
 

 
 
 
Tim Eichler, Theta Eta 26 by Bob Zak

Tim was one of those guys who we used to term in those days as a
"face-man". A "Face-Man" was someone who would get the good looking
girls at our parties on Hillcrest due to his athletic frame, Beach Boy
blond hair, and "the look".


I enrolled at NIU in the Fall of 1969. At that time,Tim lived next door
to me at Stevenson North. He pledged
Sigma Nu that Fall. In those days, freshmen had to wait one semester
before rushing/pledging a fraternity. I didn't know a lot about Tim
during those early days but came to know him that Spring of 1970. He
pursued Chuck Black, John White and myself (all living at Stevenson
North) into coming to a rush party at Sigma Nu. I had already gone to
several other rush parties, but they were too plastic (e.g., the Ducks
(Delta Upsilon), Phi Kappa Sigma, etc). At Sigma Nu, everyone was their
own person, just like Tim described them. I remember at my first rush
party, I met Jerry Ryden, Jeff Lippert, Jim Murphy and, of course,
40-Weight (doesn't everyone meet Marc!). I came back from that first
party, not only with a good buzz, but with a feeling that I met some of
the greatest guys on campus. Later on, Chuck, John & I all received our
bids, which we all accepted. We were all brothers of Sigma Nu.


The following year, Tim roomed at the house on 832 Hillcrest with Bob
Watson, John White, Rick Gayeski (who pledged Fall of '70) & Chuck Black. They
formed one of the strangest "groups" within the history of Theta Eta.
They became known (along with Brian Corbett, the Bolton Blob) as the Ronson
Family. If you were there at the house, at anytime, either prior to a
meeting, or a party, or just passing thru the house, you were most
likely to be "flinted". Don't ask me what that was, or what it was -
you just didn't want to incur their rath of being "flinted"!


Tim transferred the next year from NIU to I believe Illinois State. While
he was at ISU, he contacted Hodgkins Disease. He fought thru it and
became a survivor. Later on, Tim became a pharmacist, got married and
finally settled down. One day, can't remember the year, I received a
call from Dick Storm telling me that Tim was very sick and not doing
well. I called Tim at his house and his wife put him on the phone with
me. I remember that his voice was very weak but his humor was still in
this voice as he asked me "What's shaking?" When Tim went to the Chapter
Eternal


I came in for Tim's funeral and even though he looked frail, he still had
those good looks with his blonde hair. Once a face man, always a face man.


I owe my beginning with Sigma Nu/Theta Eta all to Tim Eichler. He was the
first to invite me to the house & he backed his word that these guys were laid back,
easy going, and easy to talk with. He was right. Thanks, Tim.

Bob Zak
Theta Eta 54

 

A Tribute to Gary Strasser, Theta Eta 254 by Mike Dutka


My relationship with Gary Strasser started the day I arrived at NIU. Ron Kulesza and I were roommates in Stevenson North on the 8th floor. I moved-in in the morning and then my parents finally left. I wandered out of my room and went next door. Inside this room were a few guys sitting around drinking. One of the guys immediately offered me a beer. As he handed it to me, he said that his name was Gary Strasser. About thirty seconds later, some guy sitting next to Gary did a Technicolor yawn all over the room. Gary looks over the situation and says looks like we need a new room. It wasnít Garyís room. He lived a few doors down.

Gary soon joined Sigma Nu. He pledged in the fall of Ď86. I was not interested in greek life at this point. But his stories of the parties and the friends that he had made started to work on me. Then I found out that Jim Pagnusat and Jamie Christensen were in his pledge class. I knew that these two guys wouldnít put up with much shit and they seemed to like it. So I went through spring í87 rush and received my bid. Gary brought it back to the dorms and delivered it to me. Gary was my pledge dad as well. I would have never joined Sigma Nu if I had never met Gary.

There are some funny stories, as we all have, that Gary had done. First off, Gary had been in love with Julie, his wife, since forever. He would talk to her on the phone and another Gary would take over. It wasnít the outgoing and boisterous Gary, but the reserved Gary. We used to give him so much shit, because you could tell by the way that he was holding the phone who he was talking to. Back in the dorms, freshman year, Gary borrowed Ronís beast (70ís era Buick blue and red primer colored) to drive out to Iowa to see her. Ron told him twenty times not to lower the window because it will not go back up. It was around a hundred below zero, and of course at the first or second toll booth, Gary rolls that puppy down and has to freeze the rest of the trip.

Then there was the Jeep. I am not sure how many Sigma Nuís spent time in that Jeep, but it was certainly a mainstay for a long time. Only a few guys knew how to drive stick, so nobody ever really borrowed it. We decided to go down to SIU to go and watch the Huskies play a football game. It was 1990. They went 10-2 that year I think. We had a mixer on that Friday night and we were going to leave right after it. Gary was living on Edgebrook. While around 2 or 3 in the morning, Rick Miller, Tom Nelson, and I were sitting in the living room praying that Gary would not show up. No such luck. He came and we all went. Gary got tired of driving and Tom says that he will drive. We stop for donuts and coffee and Tom begins to drive. The first intersection Tom shifts like a pro so Rick and Gary start to drink their coffee. At the next light, just as they take a drink, Tom pops the clutch and covers them with coffee. Gotta love that since they were wearing the latest and greatest custom Sigma Nu sweatshirts that cost about fifty bucks. But Tom was not finished. Oh no, not by a long shot. Later as we all lulled off to sleep, we were awakened by Rick yelling Tom,Tom,TOM,TOM. Tom decided to pass a truck on a two lane road. For some reason, he was unable to do it quickly. Another car was coming straight at us. By some act of God, that car went down into the ditch and avoided us (of course, we kept going). We then started thinking up the headlines in the papers. Tragedy strikes Illinois highways as four NIU students lose their life due to poor passing techniques. And on and on. At the time, we thought that we were immortal.

That feeling was shattered the day that I found out that Gary had passed away. It still haunts me as I am sure that it haunts many of you. I was out of town and unable to attend the funeral. That also bothers me. I wish that I could have been there. At homecoming, there is a void because I know that Gary would be there. Anytime there was a gathering, Gary was always involved. He was a catalyst that got everybody interested and excited. Gary lived life to the fullest. There was always time to have a beer or go to Mollyís or go on a roadtrip.

Gary adjusted to life after college quite well. He and Julie did get married. They have two beautiful girls. He was working a challenging job that he liked and he was involved with their church. He and I spoke from time to time. We usually realized that it had been a long time in between calls, but it was always the same old Gary. I canít even imagine what Julie and the girls have gone through. He is still here in spirit and he lives on through his family and in our hearts and memories.

Rest in peace, my friend.


Mike Dutka
Theta Eta 262



A Tribute to Scott Dietrick, Theta Eta 90 by Matt Tryzna


In 1973, after sustaining a knee injury at the age of 20, Scott could no longer play football at NIU. He had no other choice but to drop out of college. He worked his way up through Xerox Corporation and married his college sweetheart (which he met at a Sigma Nu party). After being diagnosed with environmentally induced leukemia at the young age of 31, he later went into remission after contracting Hepatitis C through a much-needed blood transfusion. This would later lead to a liver transplant in 1995 and his death in 1998. Scott left behind a wife and two daughters whom both would later graduate from Northern Illinois University.

A story comes to mind about Scott that I still tell every now and then.

In my senior year I was Little Sister Chairman (or whatever it was called).
During a chapter meeting right before little sister rush, several brothers emphasized the need to NOT give bids to "unattractive" women just because they were nice and we didn't want to hurt their feelings. "We have to consider the bad impression having beat little sisters around can have on potential new (male) fraternity members....". As you could expect, the most friendly, energetic, and easy to talk to rushee was a "husky" sorority sister of a few of our current little sisters. Scott liked her in particular.

A few days later we had the bid voting session. When this particular lady's name came there were shouts of "No way, she's beat" and "Do you want her walking around campus with a Sigma Nu shirt on?!", Several brothers simply made loud vomiting sounds. In the midst of this cacophony Scott stood up and shouted something like "Now wait a minute!" The room went silent. Scott then began what I can only describe as what had to be one of most moving speeches since Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" but Scott's was titled "She May Be Beat". "She may be beat", he began, "but she's a great person." I don't remember exactly what he said next but by the time he was done he had convinced enough of the brothers so that she got a bid (which she accepted).

At the next chapter meeting I assigned the Pledge Fathers for the new little sisters pledges. In my mind there was no question who would be the Pledge Father of the women described above but when I assigned her to Scott he screamed "I don't want her, she's beat!".

Go figure.

Matt Tryzna Theta Eta 87


A Tribute to Scott Dietrick, Theta Eta 90 by Jeff Chandler

That is sad news. The brother that probably new him best was Chuck Kaiser. They grew up together in West Dundee where Chuck was the star quarterback and Scottie the big time linemen.
One funny story about Scott At that time (1972-73 or so) just about everybody in the house smoked marijuana. Scott did not and was very much against its use. While he was in the hospital recovering from knee surgery he sustained playing football at NIU, some of the brothers made him some "special" brownies. He snarfed them all down, of course. It was funny to watch this big guy lying there stoned out of his mind and not knowing why he felt like he did.
Scott tried to pull off the image of a mean, crazy football player, but he failed miserably. He was one of the kindest, most gentle people I ever had the pleasure of meeting.

He will be missed.
Jeff Chandler Theta Eta 78
 


A Tribute to Scott Dietrick, Theta Eta 90 by Warren Souders


Scott was a good friend of mine during those years. We lived on the same dorm floor in Douglas and pledged Sigma Nu together along with Kevin Simpson, Bob Davis and Bill Binder. Within days of meeting him, Scott took me along with a group of guys going on a panty raid of Gilbert Hall. Scott drove a cherry '67 GTO and I remember he loved to pull up to within a few feet of a stopped car and then burn rubber for a foot or two. I remember how bummed he was when someone tried to steel the mag wheels off that car. And I remember tearing ass down Annie Glidden after a pledge function to get back to the dorm before the doors locked. Bob was a Navy veteran from Southwest Missouri who spoke with a little bit of a twang and whom we kidded about being a hillbilly. Anyway. I remember he brought some moonshine up to school that Fall and kept it in a little stone jug left over from a "popular" jug wine of the time. We had set our closet up as kind of a bar. Anyway, the day Scott got blind-sided by one of his own team mates, I recall him hobbling up to the second floor room and being in such pain that not even the pain killers he was on were doing him any good. Bob broke out the moonshine and Scott killed the thing on the spot. And as I recall, just about every other drop of liquor we had in the room at the time. It was a tough break for him because football was a big part of his life.

I recall his best friend from high school days was Charlie Kaiser. I remember the change he went through when he started dating, Sharon, his wife to be. It was striking to see this big old football player turned into a pussycat by this girl. What I recall most about Scott was he was a good friend to me, a good brother to those in the fraternity at the time, a good student, a good football player, a hard partier (as were we all). I ran out of money myself about '73, dropped out of school and pretty much lost track of Scott until years later I heard of his leukemia. I last saw Bob Davis about '78 at his home in southwest Missouri. I am sorry to hear of Scott's death in 1998, especially so many years after the fact. I am cheered, however, to hear that he had a daughter and many years to spend with her and Sharon. There are, I am sure, many brothers who will remember Scott and be able to tell stories about those days and why it was good to have known him and been able to call him brother.

Warren Souders
Theta Eta 92



A Tribute to Scott Swanson, Theta Eta 289 by Jim Tubridy


It takes a while to adjust to the loss of a close friend. Scott Swanson was truly a good friend to any and all. His size and his Joliet attitude intimidated most, but his heart and sense of humor overshadowed all of it. As one of the oldest pledges (if not the oldest) this house ever had, I found a young Joliet punk to be the brother with whom I identified with the most and one of the wisest (both definitions) guys I ever met. Scott and I became friends pretty quickly, especially after we moved into the house for the first time. Scott and Sam Liggamari (sorry if I spelled that wrong, Sam) lived in the room next door, and thanks to a little creative wiring, we shared cable and, I think a phone line at one point. Scott's bed backed up to the same wall as mine and I would get constant complaints from him about banging from my side of the wall (but she's an entirely different story). Back to Scott being "wise". Besides the obvious definition of wise. I knew Scott to be one of the 'oldest' 20-year-olds I've ever met. Like myself, he had been "in the world" before he came to college. No offense to those of you who came straight to NIU from high school, you caught up on your own world experiences after school. Now Scott took a different route than I, but he had experienced more in his lifetime than most and you could see that in how he dealt with people and situations. Scott worked in his father's gas/service station; one of the few independents left at the time. They had a snow-plowing side business and Scott would tell you, his real money for the year came through that side of the business. Being the driven individual he was, you could easily imagine Scott driving through Joliet at all hours taking care of his contracted plowing jobs and digging up as many non-contracted, quick jobs to add to that bottom line. No matter what job he did, Scott approached it as the accountant he hoped to become: "How can I make this the most profitable?"   I even think he was trying to figure how to make being McCabe's bouncers more profitable for the both of us.  Scott had a dream to open his own hobby shop, then again he had a dream to start his own multinational corporation. The main thing is Scott didn't want to work for anyone but himself. He would have admired what the Jason's have put together. Scott always came off as profit driven first and foremost, which made it very interesting when I received a call from him one day to tell me he had joined a computer innovation company. The company specialized in providing voice response/recognition hardware and software for the disabled. I told him he obviously had the wrong number and that I hoped he could find the Jim he was looking for. I also told him what a coincidence it was that my name is Jim and I had a good friend named Scott too. It took a while to sink in, but Scott was involved in something that was more benevolent than profit-driven (must have been those philanthropies at the DeKalb senior center). Sure, there was a potential for good money (I mean, it was Scott), but we're not talking Silicon Valley money. The best part is Scott was happy.  He and I stood up in each other's weddings and I had the greater privilege of being his best man. Scott's wife, Dianne, is probably the best thing that ever happened to him. Let's face it, with all the nice things I've been saying here, he still had his wild streak. Dianne allowed that wild streak to remain but she helped him focus it. He still had his fun, like calling me in the middle of various 'activities' and giving me a play-by-play (before I met my wife), but Dianne got him to look at things with a more appraising eye and I think that put him on a positive track to success. Scott was really beginning to get himself a good life complete with a great wife, a home, a computer 'playroom' for him and even his dream dog, a Newfoundland. Scott's time with Dianne was far too short for what they did for one another. Scott and I had some pretty interesting adventures together in his short time at NIU and here on this earth, including a Xmas vacation roadtrip to visit my parents in Buffalo. I got Scott into his first strip club (I'm so proud) by taking him over the border into Canada where the legal age is (or at least was) 18.  At that club a very hot, blonde lap dancer starting heading our way. Unfortunately for her, she smiled. It was a scene straight out of the 3 Stooges when they're checking out some hot looking harem girls (c'mon you all remember the King Rootintootin episode), and the one Curly picks pulls aside her veil to show teeth only a barracuda could love. I think we both even went, "Nya a ah!".  I then took Scott to his 2nd strip club...quickly. We both liked that one much better. He thoroughly enjoyed pointing out that one of the strippers looked a lot like the afore-mentioned wall-banger. When I came back to Illinois for Scott's funeral, I was reminded why I moved to CA. I flew through one of the worst blizzards of the year, followed by two days of -60 degrees wind chill weather. That weather and a flat tire made me late for my own best friend's funeral. I was extremely upset and embarrassed, but my dilemma inadvertently provided plenty of much-needed humorous distraction for his family. I still feel like he's with me sometimes. I even had a very realistic dream where he told me his wife was in pain and he asked me to contact her. I felt weird, but I had to see for myself. She was miserable.  Dianne's parents had just announced they were getting a divorce after 45 years of marriage. At the same time some financial issues had come from out of nowhere and she cried on the phone with me for what seemed like hours. Call it what you want, but Scott was there somehow. Not long after he died, Dianne sent me his Sigma Nu Pledge Book. It had some fun and interesting memories. Then it was my turn to cry. I miss Scott every day. He was the kind of guy who would drop everything to help you, like we would all hope to have with brothers. After Scott's funeral, the active Theta Eta chapter allowed us to hold a memorial service for him at the house. It was a strong show of brotherhood for those who showed for any one of the services, but that one did me the most good. Scott Swanson was a big man. Big at heart, big in spirit, big in humor, big in stature, but mostly: Big in brotherhood.
We miss you my brother.
Jim Tubridy




A Tribute to Robbie Shapin by Allan Boress, Theta Eta 17


Robbie was from the far south suburbs of Chicago and went to Rich South. He went home to the Lord at a very young age, having a heart attack while jogging. He was just in his early thirties and was the first brother to pass to Chapter Eternal.
Robbie was on the gymnastics team at Rich South and looked it. He had these massive shoulders from working out on the parallel bars, etc. Unfortunately, this athletic talent didnít really translate into any of our intramural sports and he was as crummy as the rest of us.
He pledged the semester before I did, in Fall, 1968. Robbie and his fellow pledge roomie, Doug Cohen, lived on the 9th floor of Grant North when I met them. These two were exact opposites: Robbie was always upbeat. Cohen was a natural born cynic and lived to tick people off. I think Shapin was the only guy who could take living with Cohen; anyone else wouldíve killed him. (We got our revenge on Cohen when we refused to bail him out of jail after getting arrested during a peace protest).
Robbie always had this huge smile on his face. He was like a little kid (we pretty much all were). If there were fun to be had, a practical joke to pull on someone (like Tim Kedzuch), a Christmas tree to borrow,Robbie would be first in line.
One such event particularly stands out in my mind. After becoming an active in the Spring of 1969, I was able to attend chapter meetings, then presided over by Tony Marsiglia, himself. Tony was completing a four-year stint as president (emperor) of Beta Phi.
At that time, there was a huge Flash Gordon revival on and it was quite popular late night TV fare perfect for watching whilst snarfing a Pagliaís pizza and smoking three or four doobs.
Just as Marsiglia is ready to launch into some BS speech or something, from the back of the room comes at the loudest of volume, Hail Mighty Potentate! Hail Mighty Potentate! Shapin had taped this famous greeting to Emperor Ming and played it back just as Tony opened his mouth to talk. As you would expect, Marsiglia got ticked off and the rest of us roared.
Robbie was a true brother and had a kind heart. If you needed a favor, a ride, help in any way, he was there. He further proved his humanitarian benevolence by dating one of the mousiest girls any of us hung out with. I think he mustíve felt sorry for her, or was banging her silly
When Robbie graduated, he became an insurance adjuster and studied to be an attorney. After passing the bar, he got married to a very attractive and intelligent woman and we all had a blast at his wedding.
They say the good die young. I miss Robbie and can only imagine him with a tape recorder interrupting the Big Guy when He calls a meeting.