Col. Dr. Lawayne “Buzz” Stromberg was born in 1929 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Roland W. and Marion Chuchwar Stromberg. Roland, the youngest of eight of Swedish immigrants, was working on the family farm nearby in Mora, Minnesota before he took a job as an auto mechanic in San Francisco. Buzz grew up just outside San Francisco’s Chinatown, but they went back and forth to the farm in Minnesota during the summers.
A talkative little boy, “Buzz” was given his nickname by Aunt Hilda and it would stick for the rest of his life. In adolescence, chattiness turned to contemplativeness. From the age of 12, he regularly tuned into the Texaco opera broadcast. He painted and drew well, and he helped sketch car design improvements for his father. He read history voraciously.
He received a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of California, Berkeley, where he also joined ROTC. He graduated with the rank of second lieutenant. Senior year, he also met Patricia “Pat” Rivers, daughter of Lithuanian immigrant parents, raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. When he became one of 26 members of the first graduating class of medical students at the University of California, Los Angeles medical school (class of ’55), Pat followed him to Los Angeles. They married in 1954 and would remain happily married for 69 years.
Pat and Buzz quickly had three children (Richard, Kirsten, and Eric), all born at UCLA hospital, where he finished his surgical residency. He passed the boards as a general surgeon. A few years later, he was deployed from Fort Sam Houston to Korea. He commanded the 101st MEDEVAC and performed life-saving surgeries in Busan.
After Korea, he was given orders to study nuclear medicine at the University of Rochester, New York, and then worked at the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research. For over three years, he was stationed in Landstuhl, Germany, where he commanded the United States Armed Forces Nuclear Medical Research Detachment, Europe (USANMRDE). He became nuclear medical advisor to NATO during this time and was promoted to the rank of colonel. The family returned to the United States, and Buzz worked as the Director of the Armed Forces Radiobiological Research Institute (AFRRI) in Bethesda, Maryland.
Buzz retired from the army and the family settled on Loch Lomond in Mundelein, Illinois, but his career was far from over. Buzz worked as Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs for Baxter Travenol worldwide, where he led the development of numerous medical products. He also worked at Abbott Laboratories and as a private medical consultant for pharmaceutical companies.
In addition to being a man of science, Buzz cared deeply about art and culture. He was a seasonal subscriber to the Lyric Opera and a member of the Art Institute of Chicago. He painted regularly and enjoyed sailing and fishing.
Buzz was extraordinarily gentle and good-humored, always ready to tell a joke and deeply beloved by his family and friends. He is survived by his wife Patricia, his children Richard, Eric, and Kirsten, his grandchildren Ainsley, Austin, Brieanna, Kirie, and Erika, and his great-grandchildren Nora, Grace, and Hartley. His final resting place will be located in Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois.