Leonard A. Strom, retired human resources director for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore who earlier worked in a similar position at Black & Decker, died of pneumonia Saturday at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. The Cockeysville resident was 75.
“I worked with Len when he was a volunteer with the Archdiocese and later when he became director of human resources,” said Monsignor Richard Woy, former rector of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. “He was a wonderful person of deep faith and had great people skills, which made him a stellar human resources professional. He was just an enjoyable personality to be around and enjoy time with.”
Leonard Arthur Strom — he never used his middle name — the son of Leonard Aloysius Strom, a paint factory worker, and his wife, Bal Strom, a medical secretary, was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey, where he attended Plainfield High School. He later moved with his family to Somerville, New Jersey, where he graduated in 1963 from Somerville High School.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in English in 1968 from Marian University in Indianapolis, he attended graduate school at Niagara University in Lewiston, New York.
“Our lives connected in September 1964 when we were both freshmen at Marian and remained that way for the next 57 years,” Charles E. “Chuck” Welch said. “We graduated together and were best men at each other’s weddings, and we talked once a month ever since we got out of college.”
Mr. Welch played a pivotal role in his friend’s professional life.
“Two weeks after college, I went to work for GE as a communications specialist in Holland, Michigan, and then when I was going to go into the Navy, they needed a replacement. So, I called up Len and said, ‘They’ll pay you 10 cents a mile for mileage and it’s 500 miles from your home, which is $100.’ He came out and got the job,” Mr. Welch said.
Mr. Strom went to work in 1969 and later became a human resources manager for General Electric Co. in Holland, Michigan, and later was transferred to the company’s Bridgeport, Connecticut, facility where he continued working in human resources.
In 1984, he moved to Shelton, Connecticut, when he was named head of human resources for Black & Decker’s Small Appliance Division, and two years later, came to Baltimore when he was promoted to senior vice president of human resources at the company’s Towson headquarters.
“Len was a very friendly and outgoing guy who always had a quip or a comment. People genuinely liked him and I liked him the first time I met him,” Mr. Welch said. “He liked news, newspapers and ’60s rock ‘n’ roll. He was very much aware when it came to current events. He was just a tremendous guy and this is a difficult loss for me.”
Charles E. Fenton, who was Black & Decker’s general counsel, worked closely with Mr. Strom, and became a close friend of 40 years.
“Len was one of a kind. He was orthodox when it came to his family, friends and work, but his thought process was unorthodox,” Mr. Fenton said. “I always told him I wanted to see a map to his brain and how he always got to the right place. He was an honorable and moral man, and if he heard me say that, he’d make a joke out of it.”
He said Mr. Strom’s sense of humor was Seinfeld-esque.
“Len’s adventures were hilarious and he could make funny stories out of them,” Mr. Fenton said. “Because he was always getting caught in speed traps and getting tickets, he purchased a radar detector.”
Somehow after swapping cars, the radar detector ended up in Mr. Fenton’s car.
“Len came in and said, ‘Can you go home and get it?’ and I replied, ‘I’m real busy. Can you just stay in the speed limit today?’ Well, he got stopped that afternoon, and he told the officer, if he had had his radar detector, he wouldn’t have been speeding. During the lighthearted banter, the officer entered in, and Len didn’t get a ticket.”
He was appointed director of human resources for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2004, a position he held until retiring in 2012.
“Len came to us from Black & Decker and up to that point I knew him through his volunteerism with the Archdiocese and Catholic Charities,” Monsignor Woy said. “He made great contributions to the operation of human resources.”
Mr. Strom served as a board member of the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Board of Financial Administration, and itsindependent reviewboard on child abuse. He was also a trustee of Marian University and a member of the university’s Institutional Advancement Committee.
His philanthropic interests included the Charles E. Welch and Leonard A. Strom Scholarship that the two friends established in 1990 at Marian University, the Buser/Smith Scholarship in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Strom Family Scholarship in Baltimore.
Mr. Strom received the Snyder-Wall Leadership Award and honorary doctorate, both from Marian University, the Archbishop William D. Boarders Award and the Knight of the Equestrian Order of Jerusalem.
He was an avid golfer and a member of the Baltimore Country Club and Gray Oaks Country Club in Naples, Florida.
“Having Len as a friend was a wonderful gift,” Mr. Fenton said. “And during our 40-year friendship, there was never a time I didn’t like being with him and talking to him. He was very well-liked and one thing is certain, they’ll never be another Len.”
Mr. Strom was a communicant of the Catholic Community of St. Francis Xavier, 13717 Cuba Road, Cockeysville, where a Mass of ChristianBurial will be offered at 1 p.m. Friday.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Susan L. Smith, a St. Paul’s School for Girls educator; two sons, Christian T. Strom of Hunt Valley and Brian M. Strom of Timonium; two daughters, Sarah M. Feiss of Anneslie and Erin L. Bennett of Rodgers Forge; a sister, Nancy Schott of Toms River, New Jersey; and 11 grandchildren.