Harold Stroman, 84, of Philadelphia, a longtime Philadelphia police officer, popular school safety officer, Army veteran, championship football coach, and mentor to many, died Tuesday, Feb. 22, of heart failure at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center.
Mr. Stroman was a police officer in Philadelphia for nearly 25 years. He graduated from the police academy in 1964, was assigned to the 14th District, served at Roosevelt Middle School in Germantown for a time, and was honored by Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 for his 50 years of membership.
“He took a stand for justice on the force even when he had to stand alone,” his family said in a tribute.
After leaving the Police Department, Mr. Stroman worked for 15 years as a safety officer for the School District of Philadelphia at Murrell Dobbins Career & Technical Education High School in North Philadelphia. Drawing on the same resolve for justice and respect for those he encountered as a city police officer, Mr. Stroman was a stabilizing presence on the school’s campus.
Firm but compassionate, he became friends with some of the younger staff members and took an interest in the students. He shared his experiences and the lessons he had learned along the way and usually smiled when some of his favorite students called him “Pop.”
Mr. Stroman joined the Army after high school in 1958 and served in radar detection and at the Missile Master installation at the Highland Air Force Station in Middletown Township, N.J. Despite obstacles due to racial prejudice, he rose to the rank of training and supervising sergeant and was honorably discharged in 1961.
A natural athlete and leader, Mr. Stroman played football and basketball in the Army, semipro football as an adult, and later became a hall of fame coach in the popular Philadelphia Two-hand Touch Football League. He was named coach of the year when he led his Hunt Room team to the championship and was known for his innovative strategy.
“He could motivate people,” said Irvin Heath, a longtime friend of Mr. Stroman and the Hunt Room quarterback and league MVP during that championship season. “He really gave of himself.”
Born Oct. 31, 1937, Mr. Stroman grew up in North Philadelphia. He was a track star at the Penn Relays while still in elementary school, a boxer for the Police Athletic League in middle school, and a football, basketball, and track standout at Simon Gratz High School.
He played against future NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain on the high school basketball court and became so successful at Gratz that he was named captain of all three teams on which he played, earned the school’s Outstanding Male Athlete Award, and made the football coaches’ All-Public League second team as a running back in 1954.
“He was the best teammate you could have in that he liked to see other people progress,” Heath said. “He wasn’t selfish. He wasn’t envious. He went to the Penn Relays for 50 years to cheer on everybody else.”
Mr. Stroman declined a football scholarship to Central State College, now Central State University, in Ohio after high school and instead joined the Army.
In the mid-1970s, he took criminal justice and accounting classes at Community College of Philadelphia and later attended classes at Temple University in a variety of subjects. He walked daily with friends at Valley Green park and visited the Honduras health center of Dr. Sebi, a noted herbal healer.
Known as Elder Stroman by many friends, he traced his African roots to Cameroon and Nigeria, read often about the African diaspora and African culture, and attended the Odunde African Festival in Philadelphia and the International African Arts Festival in Brooklyn nearly every year.
He was a big fan of jazz and other music, and his family arranged the funeral program for their celebration of his life into chapters with titles of Temptations songs as headlines.
He had an astounding memory, followed the Eagles closely with son-in-law Aberdeen Allen Jr., and traveled to the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
“He was determined to be the best father he could be,” said his daughter, Roslyn Stroman Allen. “And he succeeded.”
In addition to his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. Stroman is survived by two grandchildren, two brothers, former wife Marsella Stroman, and other relatives.
Private services are to be held later. Interment with Police Department and military honors is to be at 2 p.m., Tuesday, March 8, at Washington Crossing National Cemetery, 830 Highland Road, Newtown, Pa. 18940.
Donations in his name may be made to the Blackhawks Athletic Club youth football travel team, 3017 N. 35th St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19132.