Legendary Daily News personal-finance columnist and radio talk-show host Harry S. Gross, 92, died of heart failure Sunday at his home in Rydal.
Mr. Gross was a trailblazer in local media, providing financial advice to consumers. In 1978, he started a call-in radio program that ran for more than 20 years on Philadelphia radio stations WCAU and WWDB. He wrote his personal-finance column for the Daily News from 1981 until his retirement late last year.
Among his mantras were "Live beneath your means," and "If it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true."
A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Gross was born on Oct. 25, 1923, and grew up in the city's Strawberry Mansion section. He attended the University of Pennsylvania on a full scholarship, graduating in 1944. He opened his own practice as a certified public accountant in 1949, giving financial advice and teaching other accountants.
Mr. Gross joined the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants in 1946. He frequently volunteered to help with consumer-outreach programs, and became a PICPA life member in 1986, after 40 years of continuous membership.
He helped generations of local CPAs pass the rigorous accounting exam by developing a review course, and shared his knowledge with seasoned CPAs by conducting continuing-education accounting courses for 33 years. Michael D. Colgan, PICPA's executive director, said Mr. Gross was "instrumental in many CPAs successfully passing the CPA exam."
Mr. Gross monitored CPA exams and distributed candy to students as he walked around the room.
"His exam-prep course was so good that his students had a very high success rate," recalled David Zalles, a Blue Bell-based CPA, who said he took Mr. Gross' course in 1960.
Recalled Daily News editor Michael Days: "Readers would call the paper looking for Harry when I was the Daily News business editor. What always struck me was how heartbroken his fans were when they learned that he did not work in the office, and, no, he could not be reached to help them immediately solve their financial woes. Everyone just knew that he would have the perfect solution.
"Harry has been a trusted force in our region for a very long time," Days said. "And all of that knowledge, all of that caring deeply about the financial concerns of his audience, came wrapped in one of the best human beings you will ever meet."
Mr. Gross relished helping readers, and wrote upon his retirement from the Daily News in November, "I cannot describe the satisfaction I received when I was able to help people who were in deep trouble."
He especially enjoyed receiving letters from prisoners and answering complex financial questions in a clear manner. (A collection of his writings can be found at http://www.philly.com/harry_gross.)
His columns invariably referred to government bureaucrats and other functionaries as "toads," and he ended every article with the admonition: "Harry urges all his readers to give blood. Contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-Red-Cross."
Mr. Gross believed in donating blood as a way to "give life as a gift. I was forced to stop three years ago after I'd given 17 gallons (that's 136 pints)," he wrote in 2011. He served as chairman of the Penn-Jersey Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross.
He remained an active University of Pennsylvania alumnus, serving as president of the Class of 1944 until his death. He once wrote: "I was the happiest guy in the world when I was notified that I had won a four-year scholarship to Penn back in 1940. I've been class president for what seems like a century. (Nobody else wants the job). Both of my children and one of my grandchildren are alumni. I am so very proud to have helped Penn's program of making sure no graduate has debt."
His daughter, Betty Gross Eisenberg, said her parents met the summer before her mother, the former Helen Roth, matriculated at Temple.
"My mother took a summer class in algebra. A mutual friend on the Number 9 trolley introduced them, and said, 'Harry could help you with your algebra,' and they married in 1948."
In a farewell column for the Daily News, Mr. Gross called his wife "the love of my life! Any success I've had, economically and socially, is largely due to Helen. No praise is enough."
His daughter said: "Education was extremely important to my parents. And not all that long ago my dad said he hoped to live to see all four grandchildren finish their education. And last June, he did." Two are medical doctors, two are Ph.Ds.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Gross' survivors include his son, Dr. Jeffrey Gross, and four grandchildren.
Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 16, at Old York Road Temple-Beth Am, 971 Old York Rd., Abington. Interment will be private. Arrangements are being handled by Joseph Levine & Sons, 4737 Street Rd., Trevose.
Donations may be made in Mr. Gross' name to the Penn-Jersey Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross, 1-800-733-2767.