Ex-Chair Jerry Ostrow, 94, Passes On

Posted June 9, 2016 at 11:16 am

Jerry Ostrow, at right, is shown holding his 2012 Operator Lifetime Achievement Award. Others, from left, include Jim Doro, Doritex; Woody Ostrow, CleanCare; and Patrick Dempsey, Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply.

Gerald S. “Jerry” Ostrow, a former chair – or chief elected officer – of TRSA from 1987-’89, passed away on June 6.

Retired for several years in Boca Raton, FL, Ostrow was the longtime owner/operator of CleanCare, Pittsburgh. The company now is led by his son, Woody Ostrow, who also served as TRSA chair from 2010-’12.

“We’re saddened by the loss of a great industry leader,” said TRSA President & CEO Joseph Ricci. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”

TRSA’s General Counsel Steve Fellman served with Jerry and recalled him as an astute and successful business owner, who also was a leader in the industry and in his community. “Jerry Ostrow was an innovative and active TRSA chairman,” said Fellman. “He challenged the board to be creative in addressing industry issues. Jerry was devoted to his family, involved in community and charitable activities, and an avid tennis player. He was instrumental in moving the industry through a time of change. He will be missed by all.”

A consultant, longtime operator and former TRSA President, Roger Cocivera added that Ostrow was a gifted speaker with a generous spirit. “I got to know Jerry when he was the TRSA chairman of the board,” Cocivera said. “I was new in the industry. Jerry and Max Stettner(Coviera’s former business partner at Penn Linen) would communicate often. I was usually present and was amazed at Jerry’s communication skills. Jerry was a giver and not a taker toward the success of TRSA and our industry. We will miss him.”   

A Philadelphia native, Jerry attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. He captained the swim team there and wanted to pursue a career in medicine. World War II interrupted his plans to be a doctor. Instead, Jerry joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. He served as co-pilot of a B-24 bomber. He flew 30 missions over Nazi Germany and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. In a May 1987 profile article that appeared in Textile Rental (renamed Textile Services in 2012), Jerry credited his wartime service with giving him a general sense of optimism about life. “You can’t get too upset about things that go wrong when you’ve been flying during the war,” he told former Editor Charlotte Caffrey. “You see guys getting shot down all around you, and you’re still flying. You know it’s luck, not skill. So as a result … I’m fairly easygoing.”

Jerry married his wife Lynn during the war, and named his plane “Lynn’s Playboys.” She was the daughter of Moe Struminger, a longtime operator and former chair of TRSA, which was then known as the Linen Supply Association of America (LSAA). After the war, Struminger and Jerry founded a linen supply business in Jeanette, PA, and later expanded it to Pittsburgh. That company is known today as CleanCare. Jerry worked for many years to expand the business, employing innovations such as the use of propane in trucks long before the energy crisis hit. He also wrote articles for Textile Rental magazine, such as “The 8% Solution,” which examined linen-loss control efforts and quality issues in the purchasing of food and beverage textiles. Among his recommendations, Jerry said laundries should carefully track inventory and buy quality goods because “They will last longer as the cost is not proportional to the extra cotton used and you will be giving your customers a superior item.” He worked through the early ’90s, retiring at the age of 72. In 2012, he was recognized as the winner of the Operator Lifetime Achievement Award, TRSA's most presigiious honor for a textile service executive. 

In addition to his work for TRSA, Jerry was active in community affairs, particularly those involving the Jewish community in Pittsburgh. He served on the boards and chaired each of the following agencies:

  • The Jewish Community Center
  • Jewish Family and Children Service
  • The Jewish Chronicle
  • Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
  • Board member of Rodef Shalom Congregation
  • Vice chair and life trustee of the national Jewish Communities Centers Association

Jerry was predeceased in 2010 by Lynn, his wife of 65 years. Survivors include a daughter, Carol (Michael Graff) New York, NY; sons William, Pittsburgh; Richard (Elyce Dasko), Encinitas, CA; and Woody (Nancy), Pittsburgh; 11 grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and a sister, Sari Portman, Philadelphia.

A funeral service is planned at theRodef Shalom Congregation 4905 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213 at 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 9, with visitation for 90 minutes prior to the service. A shiva service will follow at 6 p.m. at the home of Woody and Nancy Ostrow in Pittsburgh.

Contributions may be made to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, 234 McKee Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

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