The activist next door
Published: May 9, 2013
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When discussing community renewal and economic development in Pike County, the name of Sean Strub often surfaces. The articulate and soft-spoken Strub, 55, has forged a career as a community activist and writer. He has founded various magazines such as POZ for people impacted by HIV-AIDS, Mamm (for women impacted by breast cancer) and Milford Magazine which is distributed in the Delaware River Highlands area.
Strub’s most celebrated economic venture in Milford is his role as co-owner of the revitalized Hotel Fauchere. The restoration of the hotel was so successful, the property is now a Relais & Chateaux boutique hotel. (Relais & Châteaux is a renowned reference of excellence in hotels and restaurants.)
The Hotel Fauchere, which Strub owns with business partner Dick Snyder, is billed as an establishment that offers guests a home-away-from-home experience. The hotel offers fine dining in its Delmonico Room, with a brasserie on the ground floor called Bar Louis. The Hotel Fauchere also features a “guests only” conservatory and garden. In addition, the hotel’s Emerson House is an event venue dedicated to intimate groups, parties and business functions.
Strub says he came to the restoration of the hotel over time. Originally, he had purchased a weekend home in Milford and frequently spent time there as a get-away from Manhattan. He subsequently grew passionate about historic restoration in Milford. So about 12 years ago he bought the hotel, which had been closed for decades and was in poor condition.
Working with Snyder, Strub labored to bring the hotel and restaurant back to life. Early on, the business partners realized the hotel would work best as an upscale seasonal destination. That vision resulted in 16 guest rooms and three restaurants. The revitalized business opened seven years ago at a cost between $6 million and $7 million.
“Our timing wasn’t the best, because we opened coming right into the Great Recession,” says Strub.
Strub describes his life as a “journey of motivated activism,” and says he has toiled to promote social change. He says his greatest desire is to create a better and more just society. “This is my purpose on Earth,” says Strub.
Strub was born in Iowa, and educated at the University of Iowa, He calls his early activism a product of the times — specifically the 1960s and 1970s — a period that included the civil rights struggle, the rise of feminism and protests against the Vietnam War.
Looking back, he says he remembers growing up feeling like an outsider, which is often the case with children who are gay. Despite these early feelings of being different, Strub says, “I really have had a creative life — it’s been very satisfying.”
Strub is quite proud that his community activism, honed in New York City in the service of AIDS and HIV-related causes, has made Milford’s downtown commercial center viable, safe and, above all, charming. He has supported local films and the arts and has worked to improve Milford’s public infrastructure, such as downtown lighting.
He also has been a member of the Milford Enhancement Committee and worked for a $4 million improvement package involving the town’s streetscape. Strub’s philanthropic efforts include membership in the Pike County Foundation and interaction with Pike residents from many walks of life.
“These have all been very broad community efforts that didn’t require any local tax dollars, says Strub. “The money has come from private, state and federal sources.”
As a gay man, Strub admits to sometimes feeling a low-level sense of anxiety. His property has been vandalized, but he does believe the Milford community is making progress toward acceptance despite some bumps in the road
He says that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) events that have taken place in Pike County have been a success. “Despite extreme intolerance that sometimes surfaces, we should all help each other because society and life in general are growing harsher and increasingly polarized,” says Strub.
As Strub looks to the future of his beloved Milford, he notes two important trends: the paucity of decent-paying jobs (excepting a few in tourism) and the current onslaught of urbanites flooding into the region, which, in some cases, has brought with it “city problems,” such as unsupervised latch-key children.
Pike County’s job-creation problem requires “visionary leadership,” he says. “It’s very sad when families raise their children here and the kids eventually leave because they have to find jobs elsewhere,” says Strub. As to the “city problems,” Strub forecasts that relocation from urban areas to Pike County will continue, eventually making the Scranton to Milford to New York City corridor a type of megalopolis.
Another long-term goal for the region, says Strub, is protecting Pike County’s pristine natural landscape, of which 90 percent is still forested. “We must be stewards of the environment,” says Strub. “If we jeopardize the environment, what will he have left?”
He fears that Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas may endanger the environment. He acknowledges that natural gas is the oil of the next century but warns that visions of getting rich quickly from gas recovery could lead Pike residents to overlook what he perceives as fracking’s risks. In particular, Strub voices concerns about endangering the county’s water supply.
Strub therefore identifies the challenges facing Pike County as the simultaneous reconciliation of the need for job creation with environmental stewardship. Successfully merging these two needs is tricky because, as he notes, economic development usually looks only at monetary issues and conservation only at ecology.
“The belief that we can accomplish this type of cooperation requires faith,” says Strub. “We also need an understanding that all members of our society have contributions to make.”
Sean Strub’s long history of
“motivated activism” is reflected in his Wikipedia biography:
Sean O’Brien Strub (b. 1958) is a writer and activist who founded POZ magazine and POZ en Español, (for people impacted by HIV/AIDS), Mamm (for women impacted by breast cancer), Real Health (an African-American health magazine) and Milford Magazine (a regional title distributed in the Delaware River Highlands area of northeast Pennsylvania).
He is a long-term AIDS survivor and has been an outspoken advocate for the self-empowerment movement for people with HIV/AIDS.
In 2009 he was president of Cable Positive, the cable and telecommunications’ industry’s AIDS response. In 2010 he helped launch the Positive Justice Project at the Center for HIV Law & Policy and in 2012 founded The SERO Project (www.theseroproject.org), both efforts combating HIV criminalization.
In 1990, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives to represent New York’s 22nd congressional district. He was the first openly HIV-positive candidate for federal office in the U.S. and received 46 percent of the Democratic primary vote. He was a long-time member of ACT UP New York. Strub produced an off-Broadway play, “The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me,” written by and starring David Drake, in 1992.
Strub was a pioneer expert in mass-marketed fundraising for LGBT equality.
He is a co-owner of the Hotel Fauchere (www.hotelfauchere.com), a Relais & Chateaux boutique hotel in Milford, where he has been active in a community revitalization effort.
Strub co-authored “Rating America’s Corporate Conscience” (Addison-Wesley, 1985), a guide to corporate social responsibility, with Steve Lydenberg and Alice Tepper Marlin and “Cracking the Corporate Closet” (HarperBusiness, 1995) with Daniel B. Baker and Bill Henning.
Strub was an eyewitness to the murder of John Lennon in December 1980. Jeanne Downey, a TV reporter with Channel 2 CBS interviewed Mr. Strub within an hour after Lennon had been killed. “Was there any kind of an exchange, do you know,” Downey asked, “between Lennon and the suspect?” To that, Mr. Stub replied: “That’s what the doorman (Jose Perdomo) said that there had been some sort of altercation or argument.”
In 1981 Strub got playwright Tennessee Williams to sign the first fundraising letter for the Human Rights Campaign Fund, a then newly-formed political action committee which grew to become the largest organization in the U.S. advocating for LGBT equality.
In 1989 Strub asked pop artist Keith Haring to create a logo and poster to launch National Coming Out Day, now also a part of the Human Rights Campaign.