Born: Nov. 28, 1944
Died: Oct. 28, 2021
Christopher McLean Strong, born Nov. 28th, 1944, would not have wanted a standard obituary. He would have written it himself if he thought death was imminent. And he would want it to be humorous. His death took us by surprise on Oct. 28., 2021. We are left to try and do justice, knowing no one could write like he could. We may struggle with the humorous part.
Along with his wife, Victoria Galbraith Strong, the two most important things in Chris’s life were teaching and music. He taught tens of thousands of students during the 38 years he taught English, TV/radio, films, and advertising at Woodstock High School in Woodstock, Ill. He was the school’s “unofficial” media instructor, filling a need not met otherwise. Based on the many condolences sent by former students, his impact on countless lives was unprecedented.
He was known for being THAT teacher everyone remembers. He was also a favorite commencement speaker with his use of humor to make important points – and he always had a song that left people in tears (either laughing, crying, or both simultaneously). His colleagues remember the yearly retirement videos, always produced with a personal song.
When he retired from Woodstock High school in 2005, he and Vicki bought a lake house in west-central Illinois. Not content to spend his time boating and fishing, Chris served as a board member and president of WMTLA and taught English at Spoon River College. His love of teaching did not retire with retirement; he continued to influence young people.
Chris was a renaissance man, possessing an almost photographic memory; he loved to trounce people in Trivial Pursuit. Often, the game was him versus everyone else. He’d win. Scrabble was a family favorite, and being a man of words, he excelled at this game as well. His love of music led him to both join and start several musical groups, many involving his son, Richard. Chris could be seen performing at local venues or events, mostly with Roger Schiller, as the Hartland Express, continuing 43 years until Roger’s death in 2012. Chris also co-founded The Strong Family String Band, playing at bluegrass festivals throughout the Midwest. He also organized a student, faculty, and alumni band called The Class of ’62. He and his son, Richard, were members of the bluegrass group Weekend Wages that had the opportunity to play in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1992. Chris never met an instrument he didn’t like, so in retirement he joined Ukulele Macomb with his sister and played gigs in the Macomb, Ill., area. Chris was an ardent Cubs fan and geocacher. He loved a good mystery, either book or TV. He was never bored.
He is survived by his wife, Vicki; sons, Richard (Audrey) and Darren Strong; daughter, Lori (Matthew) Runyan; grandchildren, Adam, Alison, Mariel, and Gabby; sister, Candace (Joe) McLaughlin; in-laws, Dorothy Galbraith, Wm Scott (Jeanette Delfino) Galbraith, Nadine Galbraith, Sarah R Galbraith; and a multitude of nieces, nephews, and beloved cousins, literally reaching from coast to coast.
Chris was preceded in death by his parents, Richard W. Strong and Marjorie McLean Strong; his father-in-law, William E. Galbraith; brother-in-law, Gerald E. Galbraith; and many aunts and uncles.
A true celebration of life is being planned for Saturday, May 28, 2022 in Woodstock. Cremation rites were accorded through Sedgwick Funeral Homes and Crematory. Online condolences can be left at sedgwickfuneral homes.com.
A scholarship for a Woodstock High School senior will be established in Chris’s name. Contributions can be made to C.M. Strong Scholarship and Memorial Fund, MidAmerica National Bank, 100 W. Elm St., Canton, IL 61520.