Meet Hyman Strachman, a WWII Vet Bootlegging For a Good Cause

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 30 May 2012

photo courtesy of The New York Times

He’s only 5-foot-5, but 92-year-old Hyman Strachman’s customers call him “Big Hy.”

Though Hollywood is not a fan, American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan think he’s a hero. For the past eight years, this World War II veteran has sent nearly 4,000 boxes of free (bootlegged) DVDs to our troops stationed overseas — all from his tiny Long Island apartment.

This article from The New York Times tells the story of “Big Hy” and his illegal, yet greatly appreciated, operation. Said Army Reserve Specialist Jenna Gordon in the piece, “…it’s reconnecting you to everything you miss.” As for Mr. Strachman, who spends 60 hours a week copying older and fresh-out-of-theater films, he knows he’s in the wrong, knew if he was younger, he’d probably “be spending time in the hoosegow.” It was hard for him to stop though; per the article: “Every time I got back an emotional e-mail or letter, I sent them another box.” But now, Strachman is wrapping things up as the troops begin making their way home.

Right or wrong, Hyman Strachman’s efforts were not only a way for him to give a simple gift to our service members and boost the morale of those serving our country just as he did decades before, it’s also been a sort of therapy for the widower, whose wife of over 50 years, Harriet, passed away in 2003.

Grief exacts a devastating toll on the ones left behind, especially so for elders who lose a spouse and are left alone, sometimes isolated and very often lonely.

Time and again, doing something meaningful for others (preferably not an illegal activity)  has proven to be the best therapy for the grieving, and Strachman obviously found what worked for him.

Read the full NYT article — and see photos of “Big Hy” at work — here. Check out our Grief & Bereavement Resource Guide for websites, information, and insights on dealing with the difficult process of mourning a loved one’s loss.

Your turn: What helped you deal with your grief?



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